End-of-Life Issues in the United States after Terri Schiavo: Implications for Social Work Practice

Darrel Montero

Abstract


The very public death of Terri Schiavo in 2005 alerted Americans to what is a growing ethical, medical, and social crisis: the status of end-of-life issues and decisions in the United States. Currently, Oregon is the only state to give terminally ill patients the right to end their lives, with physicians’ help, if they so choose. Public opinion data from 1977 to the present show that Americans support greater rights for individuals facing end-of-life decisions--up to and including physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. This paper considers the status of end-of-life issues in the United States after Terri Schiavo’s death and examines the opportunities for advocacy by social workers who serve clients and families encountering this complex and controversial issue.

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