Biblical BioPolitics: Judicial Process, Religious Rhetoric, Terri Schiavo and Beyond


While a recent flurry of academic and popular attention has been focused on the saga of Terri Schiavo, this Article begins by presenting the legal doctrine and established bioethical consensus regarding autonomy and guardianship law in the context of end-of-life/PVS disputes. Next, this Article provides a comprehensive examination of the judicial proceedings in Mrs. Schiavo’s case, as well as an analysis of the Religious Right activism that brought this case international attention and unprecedented involvement by all three branches of government at both the federal and state level. In response to widespread confusion, even among the legal community, and outright hostility by some towards the judiciary, this Article concludes that the law did not fail Terri Schiavo, and on the contrary, the judicial process in this instance worked remarkably well. This Article, however, moves beyond the immediacy of the Schiavo case to examine the larger "culture war" context, including empirical analysis of the irresponsible and inappropriate use of abortion-politics rhetoric and misguided post-Schiavo legislative agenda that forms what this Article labels "Biblical BioPolitics." Normatively, this Article ultimately concludes that the actions of certain politicized religious organizations portend destructive, long-term implications for both civil public discourse in our pluralistic society and in the area of end-of-life/PVS public policy. A clear understanding of the current legal regime vis-à-vis end-of-life/PVS situations and an analysis of the Biblical BioPolitics that threaten this regime is, therefore, particularly crucial for members of the legal and health care professions and all of us who may one day find ourselves patients.


Law and Society

Date of this Version

July 2005