Disability and Abuse Project

   Disability and Guardianship Project

Supported Decision-Making


The concept of supported decision-making is being promoted by many disability rights advocates and organizations as an alternative to guardianship.  Supported decision-making, or SDM for short, rests on a philosophy that, with proper supports and services, every person can make his or her own decisions. 

Some SDM proponents take an extreme position that flatly rejects the concept that some individuals may lack the capacity to make some decisions and therefore it may be necessary for a court to appoint another person to make decisions for the person who lacks such capacity.  SDM purists want to see guardianship systems abolished and laws that use the concept of incapacity repealed.  Moderate SDM proponents see a place for guardianship proceedings, but want less restrictive alternatives used whenever possible. 

Supported decision-making agreements, and related legal documents such as medical and financial powers of attorney, are being explored by legislators, judges, and professional associations, and at state and national educational conferences.  Literature on the subject generally lacks a critical analysis or a discussion of risks since it is mostly being published by advocacy organizations promoting SDM. 

Spectrum Institute believes there is a place for private contractual arrangements -- which is what SDM and powers of attorney are -- for some seniors and people with disabilities . . . if they have the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of an agreement when it is signed, if there is no undue influence, if they have independent legal counsel to review such documents, and if implementation of an agreement is monitored by a neutral third party.  Our concern is to minimize the risks of abuse and exploitation.

Read our latest report on SDM and the references that it cites.




Home Page          * The references include several essays critical of the original version of AB 128 in Nevada.  The version that was ultimately enacted addressed most of the concerns.  The essays are included here to illustrate the importance of identifying areas of concern prior to introducing legislation on support decision making.