In Wake of Terri Schiavo's Death, National Association of Pro-Life Nurses says Living Wills are not the Answer

News Release

As nurses, who lovingly care for--among others--people suffering from dehydration or malnutrition as well as those with mental or physical disabilities all the time, we find the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo especially tragic and unjust.

One of the primary ethical principles has long been that health care providers must never cause or hasten death. Terri's premature and cruel death highlights the deterioration of legal and medical ethics that has occurred over the last couple of decades which puts more and more of our patients at risk. Unfortunately, recent emphasis on promotion of living wills is not the answer and may indeed contribute to the problem of euthanasia.

As Marianne Linane, Executive Director of NAPN states, "The National Association of Pro-life Nurses cannot endorse the use of the Living Will as a document of health care and encourages patient education to inform those in our charge of the potentially harmful effects of the document."

While we nurses believe that any care or treatment can be withdrawn if it is truly futile or excessively burdensome, there are some decisions that are unethical and illegitimate no matter who is making them. Those are decisions that deliberately cause death.

According to a report issued by the NRLC Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics April 15, 2005, laws of all but ten states already permits doctors and hospitals to disregard advance directives specifying use of treatments, food, or fluids. The issue of medical futility policies allowing the denial of life-sustaining medical care to some patients over their own or their families' objections is one of the most controversial issues in medical ethics today, but the public remains largely unaware of the discussion.

NAPN strongly encourages individuals to educate themselves on the pitfalls of signing a living will by visiting various web sites hosting the discussion. The National Right to Life Committee has a Will to Live available on its web site which is an attempt to avoid some of these defects. We would encourage people instead to sign a durable power of attorney for health care document and name a trusted individual to make those decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make them for yourself.

In honor of Terri, NAPN has named their 2005 student nurse scholarship award the Terri Schindler Schiavo Memorial scholarship. The scholarship is $1000 and goes to a deserving student nurse based on his or her prolife work, an essay and academic standing. More information is available on NAPN's web site at

Dedicated to promoting respect for every human life from conception to natural death, and to affirming that the destruction of that life, for whatever reason and by whatever means, does not meet the ideals and standards of good nursing practice.


Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: