Terminating Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Persistent Vegetative State Patients: Current and Proposed State Laws
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
This article presents an overview of current state law governing the right to terminate life-sustaining treatment in the United States as it relates to refusal of artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) for patients who have been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The article was stimulated by the efforts of Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo’s husband and legal guardian, to discontinue ANH for her, and the ensuing controversy. Like many other neurologists, lawyers, and ethicists, we assumed that the law governing withdrawal of ANH in patients diagnosed as being in a PVS had become relatively settled and that the prolonged litigation occurring in Florida was the exception rather than the rule.1,2 We reviewed state laws to ascertain whether this assumption was indeed accurate.