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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Steven D. Milam
LAW H 509
Seattle Campus

End of Life: Rights and Choices

Address controversial legal issues engendered by our increasing control over the end of life. Focuses on patient autonomy issues at the end of life including withdrawal of life support, surrogate decision making, advance directives, and patient choice to hasten death with medical assistance (physician aid in dying). Offered: Sp.

Class description

This course will examine the legal issues arising from individuals’ increasing exertion of control over end-of-life issues. We will consider patient autonomy issues at the end of life, including refusal and withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions by both competent and incompetent patients, surrogate decision making, advanced directives, patient choice to receive aggressive pain and palliative care, and to choose to “self administer? prescribed “medication to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner.? Seminar sessions will be used to discuss assigned reading materials, which include cases and articles from both the legal and medical literature.

Student learning goals

By the end of the course, the students will have had the opportunity to acquire a working knowledge of the Washington Natural Death Act (Chapter 70.122 RCW), the surrogate decision making law (RCW 7.70.065), and the Washington Death with Dignity Act (I-1000 Nov. 2008).

Students will have examined the development of the right of privacy through the 20th Century and its application to the legal issues involved in end-of-life decision making.

This will be accomplished through the use of the major cases regarding end-of-life issues (Quinlan v. NJ. Cruzan v. MO., Schiavo v. Schiavo, Glucksburg v. WA, Quill v. Vacco).

Students will be expected to complete a paper on an end-of-life issue that will include legal analysis and will require the student to take a position on the issue, including addressing case law, federal and state constitutional provisions, and statutes that conflict with that position.

General method of instruction

The course will meet once a week for a two-hour discussion session. Students are expected to do all of the assigned reading and to participate in all seminar discussions. For each seminar session (there are only nine) one student (or more depending on the number of enrollees) will be designated in advance as the discussion leader. The discussion leader(s) will be expected to be the lead in answering questions in class and facilitating class discussion. While the professor will moderate and focus the seminar as appropriate, it is anticipated that the subject matter will generate spontaneous and vigorous discussion by all students. It is imperative, however, that each student is prepared for each seminar session, has read the materials for the session, has thought about the issues, and participates in the discussion. Attendance and participation are fundamental to the seminar experience.

The course materials include recent cases, articles, excerpts from books and other texts, as well as legislative and regulatory materials. They are available for downloading on the School of Law’s course web site.

Recommended preparation

Should be a graduate student.

Class assignments and grading

Your course grade will be based on: (1) class participation (25%); and (2) a research paper focusing on and elaborating on a legal issue related to the end of life (75%). YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO TAKE A POSITION ON AN ISSUE AND PROVIDE A LEGAL ARGUMENT IN YOUR PAPER.

You must choose a topic and submit a detailed three-page outline of the research paper at the beginning of the seminar session on Thursday, January 29, 2009. The outline may be no more than 3 pages in length (double-spaced, one-inch margins, and 12-point Times New Roman font) using proper “law review style” bluebook citation. The outline must be submitted in hard copy and stapled. Late submission of the outline will receive a 4-point deduction for the first day late and a 2-point deduction for each day late thereafter. Late delivery of the outline, with the consequent deductions applied, will be permitted by email, provided that a hard copy is simultaneously delivered to Academic Services in Room 361 with the time of delivery legibly noted on the document.

The final paper must be turned in at the beginning of the seminar session on Thursday, March 5, 2009. The final paper should be approximately 15 pages in length (double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, and stapled) using proper “law review style” bluebook citation. This paper is not designed to meet the School of Law’s Advanced Writing Project requirement.

Papers will be graded on a 75-point scale against the following criteria: Three-page outline submitted on time; clearly articulated thesis; initial bibliography) (10 points); clearly articulated thesis, analysis and argument (25 points); quality of research (25 points); organization, style, grammar, spelling, readability, page length (7.5 points); proper bluebook citation (7.5 points). Late submission of the research paper will receive a 5-point deduction for the first day late and a 2-point deduction for each day late thereafter. Late delivery of the research paper, with the consequent deductions applied, will be permitted by email, provided that a hard copy is simultaneously delivered to Academic Services in Room 361 with the time of delivery legibly noted on the document. No credit shall be given to a paper turned in after March 10, 2009.

As this class is a seminar, the pace at which we cover the seminar readings will depend on the level of student participation – the pacing provided in the syllabus is a guideline, and specific reading assignments for the next seminar session will be identified at the end of each seminar session or by email in advance of the next seminar session. IMPORTANT NOTE: Although all of the readings identified below are relevant to class discussion, not all will be assigned as required reading for the seminar. Depending on the interests of the enrollees and the pace of the seminar, some readings will be identified in advance (by email or in an earlier seminar session) as optional or supplemental.

See above.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Steven D. Milam
Date: 01/04/2009