The blind guide : the principle of individual autonomy.
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Harris, Corrie Elizabeth, 1984-
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In this dissertation I examine jurisprudence that applies the principle of individual autonomy in the areas of law that connect to the human life cycle: birth, marriage, child-rearing, and death. I focus on the human life cycle because of its close connection to the family. The Court’s application of individual autonomy is rapidly transforming the legal understanding of the family and by extension society as a whole. In examining the Courts’ autonomy jurisprudence, I demonstrate that the principle preemptively weights the decision in favor of the individual and, in consequence, undermines meaningful analysis of the competing and intertwined interests of the individual and society. This has resulted in the transformation of social norms and institutions prior to a complete evaluation of the potential ramifications for the individual and society. My dissertation endeavors to begin filling this gap of critical analysis. I consider what interests have not been sufficiently accounted for in the areas of abortion, gestational surrogacy contracts, marriage, children, and physician-assisted suicide. I examine how autonomy jurisprudence inadequately accounts for the legal situation, and what interests and principles would lead to a fuller understanding of the legal situation and the long-term interests of society. In particular, I examine the possibility of recovering principles from the common law tradition to guide legal decision-making that can adequately address the complexity and variety of human relationships. I hope that this dissertation points to some potential opportunities to work within our constitutional tradition to promote jurisprudence that more accurately describes the human condition and better promotes human flourishing.