March 16, 2004

Bioethics expert to speak at SIUC March 30

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The debate over right-to-die issues that surrounded the Terri Schiavo litigation last year is the focus of a lecture by a noted bioethicist later this month at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Robert L. Schwartz, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law and a nationally recognized scholar and author on bioethics, will present "The Rules of Engagement in the Bioethics Debate: Lessons from the Terri Schiavo Case," at 4 p.m., Thursday, March 30, in the Lesar Law Building Courtroom.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the lecture. Professor Schwartz will be available for interviews after the lecture. SIUC law school professors are available for interviews prior to the event. For more information, contact Peg Kowalczyk, program coordinator for the Center for Health Law and Policy, at 618/453-8008.


This is the second Distinguished Visiting Bioethicist lecture presented by the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy. The lecture is free and open to the public.

"The Schiavo case is a springboard for discussing in particular right-to-die issues and the resolution of those issues that is more productive, less poisonous," said W. Eugene Basanta, the law

school's Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law. "That whole debate became very stressful, not just for the family, but in a sense, the whole country."

The Schiavo case became the focus of the national right-to-die debate that ultimately involved the federal courts, Congress and President George Bush. The dialogue accompanying the case was not helpful, said Schwartz, whose lecture will focus on "how we talked about the Schiavo case more than the legal aspects of the case itself."

"Our society had such a nonproductive – perhaps even destructive – discussion of the case, that, I fear, our ability to talk about important end-of-life issues has been severely diminished," he said.

Basanta noted: "Once the Schiavo case became a case of good and evil, with God on one side and demons arguing the other side, it became almost impossible for anyone to take a middle ground, or even explore the depth of what really are difficult questions."

Schwartz's presentation falls on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Schiavo's death, March 31, 2005.

Schwartz's appearance is a return to Southern Illinois – he was the Dr. Arthur Grayson Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law and Medicine at the law school during the 1996-97 academic year, and delivered that series' inaugural lecture. In addition, his uncle, Cal Meyers, is a distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry at SIUC.

Schwartz began focusing his teaching and research in the health law field shortly after joining the University of New Mexico School of Law faculty in 1976. A book he co-authored with chapters on bioethics, "Health Law: Cases, Materials and Problems," was the first law school casebook addressing health law issues, and it continues to be a leading textbook, Basanta said.

Schwartz also is the author of a two-volume textbook, "Treatise on Health Law," and is a co-editor of a volume of health law statutes published in 1993. He also teaches at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and served as a consultant on health legislation in Cambodia, Tonga and Vietnam through the World Health Organization.

Schwartz earned a bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1970, and his law degree from Harvard University in 1975.

A goal of the lecture is to bring in a nationally prominent speaker to interact with students, faculty, and the community, Basanta said. Schwartz will speak to several classes March 30, and will meet with ethics committees of Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital and Herrin Hospital on Friday, March 31.

Offering a progressive education to graduate and professional students and pursing leadership opportunities to address social and health issues of importance to our region are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.