To create a public space where legal analyses of abortion, reproductive technology, or cloning can be discussed with my students, I have discovered I must rely upon their intuitive respect for the uniqueness of each others’ family experiences. I have attempted to create a context for public discourse in which no one need reveal his or her own experience with or fears about abortion, adoption, infertility, child abuse, sexual orientation or confusion, or inadequacy as a parent. The further challenge is how these intimate discussions are translated into public arguments, policies, or laws without denigrating those who hold conflicting or divergent views about these most personal matters.
The arguments about law and medicine I make in this book are influenced not only by my professional experience, but also, perhaps involuntarily, by my being a 55-year-old husband and father, as well as a son in an African American family with nine brothers and sisters. As the ninth child in this extended family, I have listened many times to my siblings’ stories of my own birth at home. My father’s sudden but expected death from a heart attack (after several years of hypertension and several minor strokes) came when I was a law student. Twenty years later, the six-month ordeal of my mother’s death from cancer as I was completing my first book on law and medicine created a similar sense of emotional loss, but also a host of ethical dilemmas for me and my siblings. I have used the protracted debate over physician-assisted sui