DSI calls for early implementation of Assisted Decision-Making legislation

DSI calls for early implementation of Assisted Decision-Making legislation

27 January 2016

Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) has welcomed the speedy enactment and recent signing of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 by President Michael D Higgins which will finally allow those with limited decision-making capacity to better manage their property, financial and personal affairs.


DSI is now calling for the early implementation of the various provisions in the legislation so that they can be used effectively by those the law is there to protect. 


The ground-breaking and long-overdue legislation is a comprehensive reform of the law on mental capacity which replaces the Wards of Court system. “I am concerned that it will take six months or more before all aspects of the legislation are implemented as there are people who are at risk of becoming wards of court in the interim,” said Pat Clarke, CEO of DSI.


The pivotal legislation replaces the archaic Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and will thankfully mean that adults with diminished mental capacity will be able to make their own decisions when possible.


For the first time, Irish law will provide for supported decision-making through assistants, a co-decision-maker or decision making representative who will be appointed based on the capacity of the person.


Pat Clarke of DSI welcomed the speedy passing of the Act as a long-overdue replacement of “an outdated law” which he said represents significant progress towards protecting and preserving the rights of those with disabilities.


“These reforms protect those with diminished mental capacity, those who for far too long have had their human rights denied in the eyes of the law, by granting them the respect, dignity and independence they deserve,” Mr Clarke stated.


“We are delighted and welcome the fact that the law has finally caught up with modern society by replacing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871, which has been so outdated for so long and refers to persons with intellectual disabilities as ‘idiot’, ‘lunatic’ and of ‘unsound mind’. This language and attitude clearly has absolutely no place in dialogue relating to those with diminished mental capacity in a modern Irish society.


“This legislation is relevant to everyone, both young and old who have been unfairly discriminated against, not to mention their families who have endured the stress and heartache of navigating and bearing the brunt of a pivotal law which snatched their decision-making ability and control from them.” 


The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 sets out guiding principles that are intended to safeguard the autonomy and dignity of the person with impaired capacity. The guiding principles of the legislation state that:

• There is a presumption of decision-making capacity unless the contrary is shown. • No intervention will take place unless it is necessary.

• Any act done or decision made under the Act must be done or made in a way which is least restrictive of a person’s rights and freedoms.

• Any act done or decision made under the Act in support or on behalf of a person with impaired capacity must give effect to the person’s will and preferences.