TIME politics

How Terri Schiavo Shaped the Right-to-Die Movement

Terri Schiavo
Matt May / Getty Images A family photo of Terri Schiavo, taken at Terri's hospital bed in 2003 in Gulfport, Fla., as seen on a protester's sign.

The question of the role of government in end-of-life decisions still resonates 10 years later

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Death With Dignity National Center kept an office in Washington, D.C. For years, Republican lawmakers tried to pass legislation nullifying Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity Act, which allowed terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending medication. The legislation never made it out of the Senate, but it eventually passed in the Republican-controlled House, and the aid-in-dying organization felt compelled to keep pressure on Congress to stop the bill. Then came Terri Schiavo.

Ten years ago, Schiavo—a severely brain-damaged Florida woman—became a national symbol for how not to die in America. At its heart, the case was a family squabble. Schiavo had been kept alive by a feeding tube after collapsing in 1990 from full cardiac arrest that deprived her brain of oxygen. Multiple doctors diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband Michael Schiavo argued that his wife would never have wanted to live like that and attempted to get the feeding tube removed. Her parents disagreed and fought to keep her alive.

MORE: How Canada’s Right-to-Die Ruling Could Boost Movement in U.S.

Schiavo’s case languished inside courtrooms for years. Jeb Bush, who was Florida’s governor at the time and is now a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, signed “Terri’s Law” in 2003 to reinsert her feeding tube after courts had ordered it taken out. Congressional legislators attempted to diagnose her on the Senate and House floors without having seen her in person. It all culminated with President George W. Bush cutting short a vacation at his ranch in Texas to fly back to Washington to sign a bill that would allow Schiavo’s case to be heard in federal courts.

Eventually, the courts agreed with Michael and allowed her feeding tubes to be removed. After Schiavo died on March 31, 2005, Congress all but stopped trying to pass a law banning aid in dying, says Death With Dignity National Center Executive Director Peg Sandeen, and the group eventually packed up its Washington, D.C., office and took its fight to the states to try to legalize it. A majority of Americans seemed to say that in a relationship involving physicians and families, politicians should steer clear. According to a TIME poll taken in 2005, 70% of respondents said they disapproved of the president’s role in the issue and 54% said they would be more likely to vote against their representative in Congress if he or she sided with the president. Congress appeared to have gotten the message, and aid-in-dying organizations eventually stopped worrying about the practice being outlawed at the federal level.

“The will of the people was not for the government to intervene in end-of-life decisions,” Sandeen tells TIME. “When [Sen.] Trent Lott and [Senate Majority Leader] Bill Frist are on the floor diagnosing her, not having ever looked at her as a patient, I think America said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

People associated with the aid-in-dying movement today say that the Terri Schiavo case was a turning point for Americans thinking about their own end-of-life decisions. While Schiavo’s situation was an extreme outlier, her case ultimately brought into question the government’s role in end-of-life choices altogether.

“A lot of people saw the Schiavo case and said, ‘I don’t want to end up like that. I don’t want to get trapped,’” says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University. “It scared people.”

MORE: More States Considering Right-to-Die Laws After Brittany Maynard

In the months following Schiavo’s death, there was a spike in national interest in written advance directives — documents that instruct family members on what to do in end-of-life situations — says Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, an aid-in-dying advocacy organization. The news also sparked a discussion about the benefits of prolonging life at all costs.

Prior to Schiavo’s case, the person most associated with aid in dying was Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctor who performed dozens of assisted suicides and was eventually convicted for second-degree murder. If Kevorkian showed the darker side of individual end-of-life decisions, Schiavo showed a side in which not making those choices can mean an individuals’ ultimate fate ending up in the hands of feuding family members, judges and legislators.

“One of the American people’s greatest fears is that someone other than themselves will make these decisions,” says Coombs Lee. “This isn’t political or partisan, it’s personal. And that was the first time people realized how intrusive government could actually be.”

Ten years later, there’s renewed interest in end-of-life choices thanks to Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old newlywed who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s physician-assisted suicide law. Maynard died Nov. 19, 2014, after ingesting barbiturates given to her by a doctor. In the last several months, more than half of all U.S. states have either introduced end-of-life legislation or signaled they would do so.

Most polls today show that about seven in 10 Americans support the idea that state and federal governments should allow people to make end-of-life choices for themselves, something Schiavo’s story made clear a decade ago.

“The lesson,” Coombs Lee says, “is that death is not the worst thing that can happen to you.”

Read TIME’s 2005 cover story about the battle over Terri Schiavo, here in the archives: The End of Life: Who Decides?

TIME Accident

Missing UC Berkeley Student Found Dead Near L.A. Freeway

Eloi Vasquez, 19, was reportedly hit by a car

The body of a missing UC Berkeley student and soccer player was found by police near a Los Angeles freeway Saturday.

Eloi Vasquez, 19, was reportedly hit by a car on California’s Interstate-10 after he attended a fraternity party near the University of Southern California. According to friends, the athlete was not heard from after he left the party to visit the beach.

Local soccer teams and several national athletic organizations expressed their condolences. Funeral arrangements are being made.

TIME Research

High Blood Pressure Related Deaths Are Way Up: CDC

148817014
Getty Images

Hypertension is a factor in many U.S. deaths

Deaths related to high blood pressure, have risen significantly over the last 13 years, according to new federal data.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics shows the number of hypertension-related deaths increased 61.8%, from 2000 to 2013. The researchers analyzed national cause-of-death data files and defined hypertension-related death as any mention of hypertension on the death certificate. They found that over the 13 year period, the rate rose for both sexes age 45 and older.

But report also found that the proportion of deaths where heart disease was the underlying cause of death dropped by about 6%. The proportion of deaths where stroke was the underlying cause also dropped by about 5%.

“In the areas we’ve been focusing on for the last two to three decades we really have seen a reduction in deaths,” says Dr. Clyde Yancy chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The lens has to increase now. This is an important message to get out that there are multiple reasons you want to get rid of hypertension, not just reducing stroke and heart disease, but minimizing the impact on diabetes and reducing your risk for cancer.” Yancy was not involved in the research.

While it is generally accepted that high blood pressure can lead to heart-related problems, studies have also shown links between hypertension and other chronic diseases. For instance, prior data has shown that hypertension can increase the risk of dying from cancer and developing the disease in the first place. The researchers report that heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes accounted for 65% of all the deaths with a mention of hypertension in 2000 and 54% in 2013.

Overall, the report shows that one out of six hypertension-related deaths was due to high blood pressure as the underlying cause. In the other deaths, high blood pressure was listed as a contributing factor.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t think Singapore could survive true democracy. After his death, Singapore must do just that.

By Max Boot in Commentary

2. Resilience means more than flexible infrastructure. Cities must open doors to creative vibrance through the arts.

By Jason Schupbach at 100 Resilient Cities

3. Why does China need the next Dalai Lama?

By the Economist

4. The robots of the near future aren’t threatening. They’re boring.

By Erik Sofge in Popular Science

5. Can we truly redesign the experience of death?

By Jon Mooallem in California Sunday

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

Seven People Were Killed By Falling Rocks at One of China’s Top Tourist Spots

Seven tourists killed in rockfall at China beauty spot
Stringer—Imaginechina/AP In this screenshot, the huge rock is seen at the accident site after it fell off a mountain, killing seven tourists and injuring 19 tourists, at the Diecai Mountain scenic area in Guilin city, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 19 March 2015.

The tragedy happened at the famed Diecai Mountain in Guilin province

Boulders tumbled down a mountainside in China Thursday, crashing into a group of visitors waiting to board a boat at one of the country’s most picturesque travel destinations, killing seven.

State media outlet Xinhua reports that 19 others were injured.

The incident happened at Diecai Mountain near in the southern city of Guangxi. The scenic area is famous for its karst mountains dramatically rising out of rivers and lakes.

TIME Music

Toto Bassist Mike Porcaro Dead at 59

Photo of Mike PORCARO and TOTO
Paul Bergen—Redferns Mike Porcaro and TOTO

Porcaro battled with Lou Gehrig's Disease, also known as ALS

Toto Bassist Mike Porcaro, who brought music-lovers hits including “Africa,” died early Sunday after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as ALS. He was 59.

“Our brother Mike passed away peacefully in his sleep at 12:04 AM last night at home surrounded by his family,” Steve Porcaro, Mike’s brother and bandmate, posted on Facebook Sunday. “Rest in peace, my brother.”

He continued on Twitter:

Toto, which has a new album out this month, has previously partnered with the ALS Association to raise money and awareness for the disease during tours.

Read next: Glee Stars Open Up About Final Days on Set

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME europe

Huge Numbers of Europeans Will Die From Air Pollution in the Next 20 Years

Eiffel Tower in a thick smog in Paris, France on January 6, 2015.
Apaydin Alain—Sipa USA/AP Eiffel Tower in a thick smog in Paris, France on January 6, 2015.

Europe is failing on a range of environmental indicators from air to water and biodiversity

Hundreds of thousands of people in the E.U. — perhaps millions, if present trends continue — will suffer premature death in the next two decades because of toxic air, a new report says.

Tuesday’s State of the Environment Report for 2015, from the European Environment Agency (EEA) blames governments for inaction and says that in 2011 alone — the most recent year for which there is a reliable tally — over 400,000 Europeans died prematurely from air pollution.

Europe’s environmental performance also lags behind in areas like urbanization, biodiversity loss, intensive farming and maintenance of inland freshwater systems, the Guardian reports.

“Our analysis shows that European policies have successfully tackled many environmental challenges over the years. But it also shows that we continue to harm the natural systems that sustain our prosperity,” EEA’s executive director Hans Bruyninckx told the Guardian.

[The Guardian]

TIME Research

Eating Peanuts May Be a Low-Cost Way to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Closed Up Image of a Black-colored Plate Filled With Peanuts.
DAJ—Amana Images RF/Getty Images

But don’t go nuts

Eating peanuts could be associated with a longer, healthier lifespan and particularly a reduced risk of cardiovascular-related deaths such as heart attacks and strokes, a new study has found.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute examined nut intake for people from different ethnic groups and lower-income households.

As peanuts (which are actually legumes) are rich in nutrients and are inexpensive to buy, they could be a cost-effective way to improve cardiovascular health, reports Science Daily.

“In our study, we found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the U.S., and among Chinese men and women living in Shanghai,” said author of the study, Xiao-Ou Shu.

Previous studies have linked eating nuts to a lower mortality but had generally focused on higher-income, white populations. Researchers claim the new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine is the first to discover all races could potentially benefit from eating nuts.

They examined three large groups involving more than 70,000 black and white men and women living in the U.S. and more than 130,000 men and women living in Shanghai.

The results found that those who ate peanuts across all three groups had improved total mortality and less cardiovascular disease.

But scientists warn that the study was based on observational data collected from questionnaires, rather than clinical trials, so they cannot determine whether peanuts are specifically responsible for a lower risk of death.

“The findings from this new study, however, reinforce earlier research suggesting health benefits from eating nuts, and thus are quite encouraging,” said William Blot, co-author of the study.

While peanuts may be linked to better cardiovascular health, experts caution against eating too many, especially salted nuts, as they are high in calories.

Researchers say a small handful of nuts could be beneficial if eaten as part of a well-balanced diet.

[Science Daily]

TIME Rememberance

Former Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh Dies at 97

FILE - The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, talks about his experiences over 90 years of life at his desk in the Hesburgh Library on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in this Sept. 24, 2007 file photo
Joe Raymond—AP Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, talks about his experiences over 90 years of life at his desk in the Hesburgh Library on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Sept. 24, 2007

A champion of human rights, Hesburgh transformed Notre Dame into a premier academic institution

(South Bend, Ind.) — The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who transformed the University of Notre Dame into a school known almost as much for academics as football and who championed human rights around the globe, has died. He was 97.

University spokesman Paul Browne told The Associated Press that Hesburgh died on the South Bend, Indiana, campus around 11:30 p.m. Thursday. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known, he said.

“We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many,” said the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s current president. “With his leadership, charisma and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation’s great institutions for higher learning.”

Hesburgh spent 35 years at the Notre Dame helm, earning a reputation as one of the nation’s top Catholic educators. But the man known simply as Father Ted to the thousands who attended the school while he was president from 1952 to 1987 was perhaps even more recognized for his work around the world on issues such as civil rights, immigration, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and Third World development.

That work often took him far from campus — including Washington, Moscow and El Salvador — as he advised popes and presidents, at times challenging their policies. His aim was constant: Better people’s lives.

“I go back to an old Latin motto, opus justitiae pax: Peace is the work of justice,” Hesburgh said in a 2001 interview. “We’ve known 20 percent of the people in the world have 80 percent of the goodies, which means the other 80 percent have to scrape by on 20 percent.”

Hesburgh, who grew up in Syracuse, New York, was a charming and personable man who found as much ease meeting with heads of state as he did with students. His goal after coming out of seminary was to be a Navy chaplain during World War II, but he instead was sent to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to pursue a doctorate, which he received in 1945. He joined the Notre Dame faculty that same year.

His star rose quickly. Hesburgh was named head of the Department of Theology in 1948 and became the university’s executive vice president a year later. He took over as president in 1952 at age 35.

His passion for civil rights earned him a spot as a founding member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1957 and found him joining hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1964 civil rights rally in Chicago, singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Hesburgh was a man who wasn’t afraid to challenge authority. As Notre Dame’s executive vice president in 1949, he took on powerful football coach Frank Leahy while reorganizing the athletic department. When the Vatican demanded conformity to church dogma, Hesburgh insisted that Notre Dame remain an intellectual center for theological debate. He also famously challenged the civil rights record of President Richard Nixon, who fired him from the Civil Rights Commission in 1972.

“I said, ‘I ended this job the way that I began 15 years ago — fired with enthusiasm,'” Hesburgh said in 2007.

Hesburgh’s relationship with other presidents was smoother. He received the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and later served on President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board, charged with deciding the fate of various Vietnam offenders. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton hailed Hesburgh as “a servant and a child of God, a genuine American patriot and a citizen of the world” as he bestowed upon him the government’s highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Hesburgh wrote several books, including one, “God, Country, Notre Dame,” that became a best-seller. Throughout his writings, he shared his vision of the contemporary Catholic university.

“The Catholic university should be a place,” he wrote, “where all the great questions are asked, where an exciting conversation is continually in progress, where the mind constantly grows as the values and powers of intelligence and wisdom are cherished and exercised in full freedom.”

In keeping with that philosophy, Notre Dame underwent profound changes under Hesburgh. Control of the school shifted in 1967 from the Congregation of the Holy Cross priests who founded the school to a lay board. The school ended a 40-year absence in football post-season bowl games and used the proceeds from the 1970 Cotton Bowl to fund minority scholarships. In 1972, Notre Dame admitted its first undergraduate women. Hesburgh called it one of his proudest accomplishments.

Hesburgh’s ambitions helped mold the university. The school was rather undistinguished academically when he became president. It had 4,979 students, 389 faculty and an annual operating budget of $9.7 million. When he retired in 1987, Notre Dame had 9,600 students, 950 faculty and an operating budget of $176.6 million. The school’s endowment grew from $9 million to $350 million during his presidency. When he retired, the school was rated among the nation’s most prestigious.

“I’m sure I get credit for a lot of things that I’m part of but not necessarily the whole of,” he said. “We began a great university and those who followed continued the motion forward.”

Hesburgh’s work earned him the cover of Time magazine in a 1962 article that described him as the most influential figure in the reshaping of Catholic education. He was granted 150 honorary degrees during his lifetime.

Despite the accolades, Hesburgh drew his share of criticism. Some said he spent too much time away from campus pursuing other issues. Others objected to the “15-minute rule” he implemented after students protesting the Vietnam War clashed with police on campus. Under the policy, students who disrupted the university’s normal operations would be given 15 minutes of meditation to cease and desist or would be expelled from school.

As a young priest, Hesburgh’s students included Jose Napoleon Duarte, whose 1984 election as El Salvador’s president set that country on a path to democracy after years of civil war. Hesburgh’s decision to have Duarte give Notre Dame’s 1985 commencement address was met by protests blaming Duarte and the Reagan administration for continued political killings and poverty in the Central American nation. Hesburgh wrote that the presentation of an honorary degree to Duarte didn’t mean the university has to agree with all he was doing.

Hesburgh also supported the university’s decision in 2009 to invite President Barack Obama to speak at commencement. At least 70 bishops opposed Obama’s appearance and Notre Dame’s decision to award him an honorary degree because of the president’s support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research. Hesburgh said universities are supposed to be places where people of differing opinions can talk.

Through it all, he stayed true to what he called his basic principle: “You don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”

Hesburgh remained active at Notre Dame in his retirement, lecturing occasionally, presiding over residence hall Masses and helping develop the school’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Most of all, though, he was a priest. He said Mass daily throughout his life.

“I’ve said Mass in airplanes at 50,000 feet. I’ve said Mass in the South Pole. I’ve said Mass in jungles all over the world. I’ve said Mass in African huts. I’ve said Mass in cathedrals. Wherever I am, I’ve been able to do it for over 60 years every day and only miss a couple of times in all those years,” Hesburgh said.

Jenkins, the current president, said Hesburgh’s greatest influence may have been on the generations of Notre Dame students he taught, counseled and befriended.

“Although saddened by his loss, I cherish the memory of a mentor, friend and brother in Holy Cross and am consoled that he is now at peace with the God he served so well,” Jenkins said.

The university said that a customary Holy Cross funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus at a time to be announced. The university also said a tribute to Hesburgh will be held at the Joyce Center.

TIME remembrance

First Black NBA Player Earl Lloyd Passes Away Aged 86

Earl Lloyd
Edward Kitch—AP Earl Lloyd, Oct. 30, 1972.

The Virginia native was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003

Earl Lloyd, the first black professional NBA player, passed away Thursday at the age of 86.

Known as “the Big Cat,” the 6’5″ forward made his league debut in October 1950, playing for the Washington Capitals. During his legendary career, Lloyd averaged 8.4 points during 560 regular-season NBA games.

Lloyd was also twice included in the CIAA All-America team and was three-time all-conference selection. Lloyd retired in 1960, after serving in the U.S. army, playing for the Detroit Pistons and winning the 1955 NBA championship for the Syracuse Nationals. He was also the NBA’s first black assistant coach in 1968 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Born in Alexandria, Va., Lloyd is survived by a wife and three sons.

[Charleston Gazette]

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