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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

The law governing adolescence is discordant at best, impoverished at worst. Regarded as an appendage to paternalistic policy for children, present legal rules based upon presumptive decisional incapacity produce anomalous results. Most striking, a 16-year-old may confront criminal conviction with punitive and retributive sanction, including the death penalty, but is deemed decisionally incapable to refuse debilitating life-sustaining treatment. Adolescence and its accoutrement of distinct issues has hitherto remained unexamined, until now. In this Article, Professor Hartman proposes a paradigmatic shift in thinking about adolescence that entails a legal framework predicated on decisional ability, rather than presumptive decisional incapacity. By comprehensively exploring cognitive developmental research and legal treatment of issues related to adolescent decisional autonomy in various arenas, such as juvenile delinquency, family law, and health care, Professor Hartman establishes a foundation for advancing an adolescent autonomy model that seeks to provide a fuller understanding of adolescent decisional ability, create a coherent and just analytical context for resolving adolescent issues, and optimize meaningful development of adolescent autonomous rights.

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