During the past couple of months, the topic of conservatorship received attention in the media after former popstar Britney Spears asked the court to remove her from her father’s guardianship. According to a 2018 estimate from the National Council on Disability, about 1.3 million people in the United States are under guardianship. They include elderly Americans who are unable to manage their affairs, as well as a large number of younger people, some of whom have intellectual or developmental challenges. According to studies, the number of persons living in such arrangements has increased by more than threefold in the last three decades. Adults under conservatorship can’t choose where they live, which doctors they see, what medications they take, or what type of care they get. In some cases, those requiring a guardian also cannot vote. To have their right to vote reinstated, they must go before a judge.
Placing an adult under conservatorship involves the completion of papers proving that the conservatee is legally incompetent, a procedure in which the conservatee has little to no participation. There are some alternatives available, including supportive decision-making. Supportive decision making enables people with disabilities to pick who will assist them in gathering and understanding information, making decisions, and communicating those decisions to others. It protects a person’s right to make significant life decisions for themselves and to have those decisions respected by the other people they chose.
All individuals with disabilities should be able to make their own decisions about their lives if they are able to do so. The right to bodily autonomy should not be revoked. Disabled people are entitled to safety, support, and care on our terms, not because we meet legal requirements that allow us to be self-sufficient, but because we are human.
Alternatives to Guardianship and/or Conservatorship.” Alternatives to Guardianship and/or Conservatorship | Maricopa County, AZ, Maricopa County, http://www.maricopa.gov/5271/Alternatives-to-Guardianship-andor-Conse.
Fessler, Pam. “Disabled And Fighting For The Right To Vote.” NPR, NPR, 4 Sept. 2016, http://www.npr.org/2016/09/04/492430780/disabled-and-fighting-for-the-right-to-vote.
Morris, Amanda. “Britney Spears’s Case Calls Attention to Wider Questions on Guardianship.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 July 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/us/britney-spears-conservatorships-guardianships.html.
I love the concept of supportive decision-making. I didn’t realize how oppressive guardianship can be.