RIGHTS OF THE DEAD

Many legal rules suggest that the dead do not have rights. Often, the dead cannot marry, 1 divorce, or vote. The executor of an estate cannot sue for the libel or slander of a deceased person. And the right to medical privacy substantially erodes at death, giving family members the ability to obtain sensitive information about a decedent’s medical conditions. On the other hand, various legal institutions have spent considerable time trying to protect the rights of the dead. As a result, most testamentary distributions, burial requests, and organ donation designations are held to be valid even if they contradict the preferences of the living. Certain destructions of property requested in wills are honored even though they may have a negative impact on the living. Some states even statutorily recognize a posthumous right of publicity, and recent case law suggests there may be a posthumous right to reproductive autonomy.

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