New Wine in Old Bottles

Suppose a wife is dying or has been lying for years in a coma: Who has ultimate authority to decide what medical treatments will be used to prolong or not to prolong her life?  Suppose a child of divorced parents is taken out of the country by his mother, who then dies, leaving the child with her family: To whom does the child belong—the father, or the grandparents?  Suppose a teenage boy is running wild, and his school does nothing to prevent him from leaving the campus or from taking drugs during lunch break: Should the parents be held liable for his truancy?  Or, if they tie him to his bed at night, should they be prosecuted for child abuse?  Suppose a married woman gets the religion of individual fulfillment and leaves her faithful husband: Who should get the kids?  And, if the answer is the wife, is the husband responsible for alimony or child support?

Suppose a 16-year-old girl is found pregnant by her boyfriend: Who (in a society that has legalized prenatal infanticide) should have the power to decide whether or not to end the pregnancy—the mother, the grandparents, a doctor, or the state?  Suppose an infertile couple has tried various forms of artificial procreation before getting divorced, and both frozen sperm and embryos remain: Who decides on the disposition of either or both?  Suppose two lesbians have arranged for one of them to be impregnated by the other’s brother: In the event of a separation,...

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