Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Legal Victory For Choice

Disabled woman who won court battle with mother moves in with friends
Noreen O'Donnell, Reuters - August 3, 2013

This is an interesting victory, and doubly valuable because the ruling was so specific. The judge properly separated two issues. Does Jenny currently need a guardian? Yes. She has real cognitive impairments and at this time she needs some everyday supervision to live safely. Fine. Can she choose who her guardian is? Yes! Jenny can choose guardians who she feels comfortable with, and who will buy into and help facilitate the kind of life she wants, not what they think she should have. Furthermore, Jenny's new guardians have a mission, to help her learn to manage her own life, perhaps to the point where she will no longer need a guardian. The judge here underscored that:

a) Cognitive impairment isn't an all-or-nothing proposition.

b) It isn't a completely static condition.

c) Needing help with everyday "executive functions" doesn't mean you can't make sound, valid choices.

I don't know if this case broke any legal ground, but it beautifully, simply illustrated the more progressive approach to cognitive impairment that is evolving, and gradually (not fast enough) replacing older, more paternalistic models.

And of course, it's just awesome for Jenny.