Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Jessicah Duckworth


Because of our increasingly intercultural world, it can be difficult for patients, families, and medical teams to decide on what they should do for patients who are, in the medical team’s opinion, near the end of life. The family and medical team can hold disparate beliefs and values around what they should do for the patient. Ethics committees often get involved in these difficult end of life cases.These cases are also emotionally charged, especially for the family as they wrestle with the intensity of their loved one’s situation and try to decide what to do. Because of the emotional intensity and the potential for dissimilar beliefs, I argue the medical team must empathize with the family. Current models of making end of life decisions do not stress the importance of empathy, especially in emotionally charged difficult end of life cases.

To address this lack of empathy, I develop normative guidelines to help medical teams practice empathy. As a practice, empathy helps the medical team practice neighbor love. Neighbor love is a way to love the family as they want to be loved—a holistic love that coalesces around the experience of the family and sees them as worthy of respect. Empathy may also help these cases reach a resolution that ends with a plan of care in place as well as mutual respect and love between the family and medical team.