Head of Law Faculty Presents Paper at SLSA Annual Conference 2024

karen sutton at a conference

Karen Sutton, Head of the Faculty of Law, was delighted to present her paper 'Empathy and Autonomy in End-of-Life Decision-Making for Terminally Ill Minors: A Paradigm Shift' at the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Annual Conference 2024.

Karen Sutton SLSA Conference

The SLSA Annual Conference 2024, hosted by the University of Portsmouth Law School, will take place in Portsmouth from March 26th to 28th.

The Annual Conference has been running since the Association was founded in 1990 and is an opportunity for socio-legal studies professionals to disseminate knowledge and network with others in the field.

Karen said, "I was delighted to present in the Health Law and Bioethics stream at the Regulating Children’s Health through Best Interests session and to hear about the important research being carried out by colleagues and peers."

Read the abstract of Karen's paper below:

Empathy and Autonomy: A Compassionate Argument for Granting Terminally Ill Minors the Right to Choose Assisted Dying. 

This paper advocates for a paradigm shift in the discourse surrounding end-of-life decision-making for minors facing terminal illnesses, asserting the importance of empathy and autonomy as guiding principles. Grounded in the recognition of individual agency and the imperative to alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering, the paper delves into the legal, ethical, moral and compassionate considerations of allowing minors the right to choose assisted dying. While also delving into the implications of denying minors the right to make decisions regarding their own mortality. 

The discussion highlights the unique vulnerabilities of minors with terminal illnesses and the potential benefits of affording them the dignity to shape the trajectory of their final moments. It examines the emotional toll of prolonged suffering on terminally ill minors and their families, highlighting the potential benefits of providing a legal framework that respects the unique circumstances of these minors. Ethical safeguards, capacity, counselling and the role of healthcare professionals in facilitating empathetic end-of-life choices are explored, emphasising the need for a balanced approach that prioritises the holistic well-being of the minor. 

This paper contributes to the ongoing ethical dialogue by underscoring the significance of empathy and autonomy in fostering compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill minors. It advocates for a nuanced and compassionate approach that recognises the evolving capacities of minors and respects their right to choose a dignified end to their life journey, free from unnecessary pain and suffering.