December 30th, 2015 was a landmark day for everyone with an intellectual disability in Ireland. President Michael D. Higgins signed into law the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. This new legislation brings an end to the Lunacy Act, Marriage of Lunatics Act and will start the wind down of the Wards of Court system. The passing of the Capacity Bill will result in significant improvements for people with intellectual disabilities and their ability to make decisions for themselves will now be support by the law.
The new law starts with the presumption that everyone has the capacity to make decisions, with the right support, a person with a disability will be able to make decisions on important aspects of their lives such as
- Managing money
- Medical treatment
- Where a person wants to live
- Who a person wants to live with
- Make their own travel arrangements
A person will now have to show that they lack capacity and their ability to make a decision is impaired because they are unable:
- To understand the information relevant to the decision.
- To retain that information, long enough to make a voluntary choice.
- To use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision.
- To communicate his or her decision by any means.
The law will then give people 3-main avenues going forward;
- Assistance Decision – a representative will present the information in a clear and understandable manner so a person with a disability can make an informed choice.
- Co-Decision – Family or friends supports a person with a disability to come to their own decision.
- Decision Representative – A Circuit Court appointed representative will make decision on behalf of a person with a disability.
The person still remains in full control and can remove an assistance decision making assistant at any time. Those who want to be appointed decision making assistants will be under the supervision of the Office of the Public Guardian which will be the new office to oversee the implementation and awareness of the Bill.
This is a huge step forward in ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is a very welcome development. It is my hope that the new law will increase the voice of persons with intellectual disabilities and give them back more control of important decisions that will impact their quality of life.