Assisted Decision-Making Bill reaches committee stage

New legislation will replace Lunacy Regualtion Act and end wards of court

The Dáil select committee on justice worked through more than 400 amendments moved by Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. Photograph: Eric Luke

The Dáil select committee on justice worked through more than 400 amendments moved by Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

A Bill to allow people with limited decision-making capacity to better manage their personal, property and financial affairs has progressed to committee stage.

The Dáil select committee on justice worked through more than 400 amendments to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 on Wednesday.

The legislation will replace the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and will mean adults with diminished mental capacity will no longer be wards of court; instead a decision-making assistant, a co-decision-maker or an attorney will be appointed based on the capacity of the person.

The proposed legislation has been welcomed by campaign groups and academics. Piers Gooding, research associate at the NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP), said the Bill will be relevant to virtually all Irish people.

But he added that the centre, which worked with the Department of Justice in formulating the legislation, also has concerns the Bill does not fully meet human rights standards.

He said the focus on “decision-making capacity” could place onerous demands on certain people and result in them being forced to see clinical professionals to prove they have mental capacity.

A coalition of campaign groups have also expressed concerns over powers granted to “informal decision-makers” who the CDLP said “can make a wide range of decisions about people who they believe to lack mental capacity without any oversight or scrutiny from the courts or other State bodies”.

But he added that overall the centre was “really pleased” and said the fact that Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch moved more than 400 amendments to the Bill at the committee meeting showed the Government was serious about the legislation.