DIFFICULT questions of medical ethics are often made more complex in the real world by the intrusion of private law considerations. The end of life choices of a mentally competent but terminally ill patient may be influenced by the consequences for the financial well being of surviving dependants. In particular, attention is likely to be given to the effect on any life insurance cover in place. For many this will represent the greatest financial asset contingent on death. There has been considerable debate as to the proper response of public law to these issues, in both the criminal and regulatory fields. However, the prosecutorial, judicial and jury discretions that bound these rules limit their impact in practice. By contrast, the private law principles that govern the distribution of assets on death have been largely overlooked. This article redresses that imbalance.