Why is it important?
Worldwide, people with disabilities (including intellectual disabilities and psychosocial [mental health] disabilities) are denied the right to make decisions about how they want to live their lives. Guardianship and other mechanisms of substitute decision-making replace a person’s own wishes, decisions, and preferences with the decisions of someone else. When a person is placed under guardianship, they are denied the legal capacity to act. If a person lacks legal capacity to act, another person can make major and minor life decisions without that person’s consent. The guardian can decide what clothes a person wears, whether and how the person can spend her money, where she can live, what kind of medical treatment she will receive, and even whether or not she can be in a relationship. The person who makes decisions on behalf of someone else may be a stranger, and may not know anything about the person’s wishes, interests, or desires.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
All persons should have the right to act as part of their basic human rights. The right to act means that people with disabilities are free to make their own life decisions. In some cases, a trusted person will support the decision-making process by aiding the person in expressing his or her wishes. Implementing the right to act means that countries must transition from guardianship and substituted decision-making to legal capacity, the right to act and, where needed, supported decision-making.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) confirms that people with disabilities have the right to exercise their legal decision-making capacity on an equal basis with all others. This means that the 151 countries that have signed on to the CRPD are required to move away from systems of guardianship and toward an individual right to act, with support where needed. Laws must be reformed worldwide to create systems that comply with the CRPD and that recognize the equal right to act for all people. Virtually all current legal systems violate the CRPD.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of PERSON (Partnership to Ensure Reforms of Supports in Other Nations) and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.