Skip to main content
PRINT EDITION

A Good Death: End-of-Life Lawyering Through a Relational Autonomy Lens

By December 1, 2023January 13th, 2024No Comments

Abstract: Death is difficult—even for lawyers who counsel clients on end-of-life planning. The predominant approach to counseling clients about death relies too heavily on traditional notions of personal autonomy and a nearly impenetrable right to be free from interference by others. Rooted in these notions, contracts called “advance directives” emerged as the primary tool for choosing one’s final destiny. Nevertheless, advance directives are underutilized and ineffective because many people are mired in death anxiety, indecision, and the weight of planning for a hypothetical illness. In the end, many do not get the death they choose: to trust in others and share the arduous decision-making responsibility with loved ones.

This Article proposes that lawyers shift away from a rights-based paradigm that insists clients make decisions alone, unobstructed by family and friends. Instead, it offers an alternative counseling model that draws on relational autonomy and values the inherent interplay between client independence and interdependence. Grounded in feminism, relational autonomy reimagines individualistic conceptions of self and identity to embrace our essential social and connected nature. Lawyers can enhance end-of-life decision-making to be in alignment with client goals by refocusing it from a solitary experience to one inclusive of the interests and participation of loved ones. While death is inevitable, we no longer need to insist it is done alone.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL ARTICLE

Other Articles from WLR Online

June 1, 2023 in ONLINE EDITION

We Are Never Getting Back Together: A Statutory Framework for Reconciling Artist/Label Relationships

Abstract: Taylor Swift could tell you a thing or two about record label drama. Artists like Swift who want to break into the big leagues and top the charts must…
Read More
September 1, 2022 in BLOG POST, ONLINE EDITION

Could a Political Compromise Be Constitutional? Legal Hurdles for Possible Negotiations with Russia

The relationship between two post-soviet neighbors—Russia and Ukraine—has a complicated history. Following Russian military aggression in 2014 and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the possibility of normalized relations…
Read More
September 1, 2022 in ONLINE EDITION

Is It Time to Bury Barry? Why an Old Change at the Legislature Requires a New Look at Washington’s Nondelegation Doctrine

Abstract: Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court of Washington adopted a relaxed version of the nondelegation doctrine in a case called Barry and Barry v. Department of Motor Vehicles. The…
Read More
August 19, 2022 in ONLINE EDITION

Franco I Loved: Reconciling the Two Halves of the Nation’s Only Government-Funded Public Defender Program for Immigrants

Abstract: Detained noncitizens experiencing serious intellectual and mental health disabilities are among the most vulnerable immigrant populations in the United States. The Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) creation of…
Read More