Last updated on: 6/4/2008 | Author:

Paul McHugh, MD Biography

Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Con to the question "Should Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal?"

“As soon as Terri Schiavo’s case moved into the law courts of Florida, the concept of ‘life under altered circumstances’ went by the boards–and so, necessarily, did any consideration of how to serve such life…

Terri Schiavo’s husband and his clinical and legal advisers, believing that hers was now a life unworthy of life, sought, and achieved, its annihilation. Claiming to respect her undocumented wish not to live dependently, they were willing to have her suffer pain and, by specific force of law, to block her caregivers from offering her oral feedings of the kind provided to all terminal patients in a hospice-even to the point of prohibiting mouth-soothing ice chips. Everything else flowed from there. How could such a thing happen? This, after all, is not Nazi Germany… But we in this country have our own, homegrown culture of death, whose face is legal and moral and benignly individualistic rather than authoritarian and pseudo-scientific…

Contemporary bioethics has become a natural ally of the culture of death, but the culture of death itself is a perennial human temptation; for onlookers in particular, it offers a reassuring answer (‘this is how X would have wanted it’) to otherwise excruciating dilemmas, and it can be rationalized every which way till Sunday. In Terri Schiavo’s case, it is what won out over the hospice’s culture of life…”

“Annihilating Terri Schiavo,” Commentary Magazine, June 2005

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Director, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins, 1975-2001
  • Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1975-2001
  • Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1975-2001
  • Council Member, Presidents Council on Bioethics
  • Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Co-chairman, Ethics Committee, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • Board Member, The American Scholar
  • MD
  • None found
Quoted in:
  1. Should Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube Have Been Removed?