If That Ever Happens to Me

Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo

By Lois Shepherd

240 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 1 fig., appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7352-6
    Published: February 2012
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8864-3
    Published: June 2009

Studies in Social Medicine

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Every day, thousands of people quietly face decisions as agonizing as those made famous in the Terri Schiavo case. Throughout that controversy, all kinds of people--politicians, religious leaders, legal and medical experts--made emphatic statements about the facts and offered even more certain opinions about what should be done. To many, courts were either ordering Terri's death by starvation or vindicating her constitutional rights. Both sides called for simple answers. If That Ever Happens to Me details why these simple answers were not right for Terri Schiavo and why they are not right for end-of-life decisions today.

Lois Shepherd looks behind labels like "starvation," "care," or "medical treatment" to consider what care and feeding really mean, when feeding tubes might be removed, and why disability groups, the faithful, and even the dying themselves often suggest end-of-life solutions that they might later regret. For example, Shepherd cautions against living wills as a pat answer. She provides evidence that demanding letter-perfect documents can actually weaken, rather than bolster, patient choice.

The actions taken and decisions made during Terri Schiavo's final years will continue to have repercussions for thousands of others--those nearing death, their families, health-care professionals, attorneys, lawmakers, clergy, media, researchers, and ethicists. If That Ever Happens to Me is an excellent choice for anyone interested in end-of-life law, policy, and ethics--particularly readers seeking a deeper understanding of the issues raised by Terri Schiavo's case.

About the Author

Lois Shepherd is associate professor of public health sciences and professor of law at the University of Virginia. She is coauthor of Bioethics and the Law.
For more information about Lois Shepherd, visit the Author Page.


"A thought-provoking, balanced personal and professional reflection on what has come to be known as the 'Schiavo case.' . . . Recommended."--Choice

"The sensitive presentation of facts and narrative . . . makes this book a beacon on the convoluted path to better living and dying."--Newsletter of the National Capital Area Chapter of Compassion and Choices

"A thoughtful, frank, and balanced look at the [Schiavo] case itself and the larger issue of end-of-life decision making."--Doody's Review Service

"The sensitive presentation of facts and narrative with values of responsibility and fairness makes this book a beacon on the convoluted path to better living and dying."--Metapsychology Online

"A detailed ethical examination that is balanced and insightful. . . . A model of depth in ethical deliberation on difficult issues . . . highly recommended."--Nursing Ethics

"Detailed analysis. . . . A relentlessly honest examination."--Hastings Center Report