The disability rights movement has never been monolithic, but it has experienced an increasing consensus about the importance of limiting the legal authority granted to guardians, especially in life and death health care decision-making. Twenty-six national disability rights groups asked the courts not to allow Terri Schiavo’s guardian to bring on her death. But the arguments advanced by the disability rights perspective were long dismissed by a burgeoning and now fully developed movement.
The timing is right to change the current pervasiveness of guardianship. We have moved away from parents and professionals making decisions about placements for people with disabilities in homes, facilities, and day programs. The principles and practices of person-centered planning and self-determination give us the tools to support individuals with disabilities to have the lives they want in the community. This change bodes well for rethinking our reliance and benign attitude towards guardianship. There is clearly a dichotomy between guardianship and self-determination or person-centered planning. As Kathy Harris points out in her article, Making Guardianship Unnecessary, “The imposition of guardianship is the total antithesis of self-determination principles.”