Adverse consequences of article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for persons with mental disabilities and an alternative way forward

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Abstract

It is widely accepted among medical ethicists that competence is a necessary condition for informed consent. In this view, if a patient is incompetent to make a particular treatment decision, the decision must be based on an advance directive or made by a substitute decision-maker on behalf of the patient. We call this the competence model. According to a recent report of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) presents a wholesale rejection of the competence model. The High Commissioner here adopts the interpretation of article 12 proposed by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. On this interpretation, CRPD article 12 renders it impermissible to deny persons with mental disabilities the right to make treatment decisions on the basis of impaired decision-making capacity and demands the replacement of all regimes of substitute decision-making by supported decision-making. In this paper, we explicate six adverse consequences of CRPD article 12 for persons with mental disabilities and propose an alternative way forward. The proposed model combines the strengths of the competence model and supported decision-making.

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