Legal and Psychological Considerations in Adolescents’ End-of-Life Choices

Wilson, Molly J. Walker | August 31, 2015

In this essay, Professor Wilson reflects on the manner in which the law treats adolescents who are faced with end-of-life decisions. She begins by surveying the legal framework underlying end-of-life choices at the state and federal levels. She then discusses two decisionmakers – adolescents and adults – and the behavioral traits and biases that animate each when end-of-life decisions arise. In doing so, Wilson draws upon a rich body of empirical work on human decisionmaking. Wilson concludes that placing end-of-life decisions solely in the hands of adolescents or adults can result in suboptimal choices. She proposes the use of a bioethical mediator to counteract biases, reduce disagreement, and assist all parties in reaching the best possible outcome.