Skip to main content

Speaking for the Dying: Life, Death and Law

Seven in ten Americans over the age of 60 who require medical decisions in the final days of life lack capacity to make them. For many of us, the biggest life-and-death decisions—literally—of our lives or of those we love will be made by someone else.

The recent publication of Speaking for the Dying: Life-and-Death Decisions in Intensive Care by ABF research professor, Susan Shapiro, coincided with the passage of a new ABA resolution that reconsiders the role of lawyers in advance care planning. This research seminar married these empirical and policy perspectives. Drawing on more than two years of observations in two intensive care units, Shapiro described how decision makers for patients without capacity to speak for themselves actually make life-and-death decisions on their behalf and the limited role of advance directives in this process. In addition to describing the new ABA guidance for lawyers, the panel also provided the perspective of an ethics consultant facing these wrenching decisions on the ground, day after day.

Moderated By:
Jo Ann Engelhardt, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor, Bessemer Trust

Susan P. Shapiro - 
Research Professor, American Bar Foundation
Virginia A. Brown - Assistant Professor, Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin
Charles P. Sabatino - Director, American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging

Listen to the Fellows CLE research seminar, "Speaking for the Dying: Life, Death and Law," from Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, TX: 


This program was sponsored by the ABA Commission on Law and AgingABA Health Law SectionABA Judicial DivisionABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law SectionABA Section of Family Law, ABA Senior Lawyers DivisionABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, and ABA Young Lawyers Division.

Professor Susan P. Shapiro speaks during the Fellows CLE on February 14, 2020.

Site design by Webitects

© 2022 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Contact the Fellows
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.