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Authority without identity: defending advance directives via posthumous rights over one’s body
  1. Govind Persad
  1. Correspondence to Dr Govind Persad, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, Denver CO 80210, USA; gpersad{at}alumni.stanford.edu

Abstract

This paper takes a novel approach to the active bioethical debate over whether advance medical directives have moral authority in dementia cases. Many have assumed that advance directives would lack moral authority if dementia truly produced a complete discontinuity in personal identity, such that the predementia individual is a separate individual from the postdementia individual. I argue that even if dementia were to undermine personal identity, the continuity of the body and the predementia individual’s rights over that body can support the moral authority of advance directives. I propose that the predementia individual retains posthumous rights over her body that she acquired through historical embodiment in that body, and further argue that claims grounded in historical embodiment can sometimes override or exclude moral claims grounded in current embodiment. I close by considering how advance directives grounded in historical embodiment might be employed in practice and what they would and would not justify.

  • advance directives
  • bioethics
  • dementia

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @GovindPersad

  • Contributors I am the sole author of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval This article was not based on human subjects research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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