Barbara Noah, Professor of Law at Western New England University School of Law, has written about the role of lawyers in preparing clients for death. Her article begins as follows:
End-of-life law, though flawed, offers an opportunity to express individual values and preferences, via advance directives, health care proxies and other documents, to prepare for death before it’s imminent. Yet, many people avoid the thinking process that’s necessary to make these preparations, because the thought of death is uncomfortable to confront. Most decide, consciously or unconsciously, not to decide. If this decision is the result of a voluntary and considered choice to accept mortality by relinquishing attempts to exert control over death and the dying process, then perhaps all is well, at least for the dying individual. If, however, the non-decision arises out of a reluctance to confront death, then the non-deciders do themselves a disservice, not only at the time of death, but also throughout the life that precedes it.
Modern medical technology exacerbates this problem. In this era of highly technological care, physicians and patients often feel complementarily reluctant to engage in discussions about the patient’s values, preferences and concerns or, worse, even to acknowledge the fact of the patient’s dying.