Principles of the Act
The Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 seeks to balance the rights of an adult with impaired decision making capacity so they are independent and receive appropriate support.
To achieve this balance, guardians are to apply a range of general principles. These include:
- presumption of capacity: adults are presumed to have the capacity to make their own decisions unless it is established they cannot.
- human rights: regardless of decision making capacity, everyone has the same basic rights including the protection of individual liberty and access to services. Decision makers must recognise the importance of encouraging the adult to exercise their rights.
- individual value: each person is valued as an individual and their human worth and dignity is respected.
- valued social role: an adult’s right to be a valued member of society is recognised, as is the importance of encouraging and supporting them in the performance of such social roles as home owner, bank customer, investor, shopper, worker and volunteer.
- participation in community life: decision makers must acknowledge the importance of encouraging the adult to take part in general community activities and of providing the support needed for such participation to occur.
- encouraging self-reliance: decision makers must recognise the importance of encouraging an adult to be as autonomous and self-reliant as possible - physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.
- least restrictive option: anyone performing a function or exercising a power under the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 must apply the least restrictive option that is consistent with the adult’s proper care and protection. This also means:
- maximum participation in decision making - the adult has the right to participate, to the best of their ability, in the decisions affecting their life. This involves giving the adult any necessary support and access to information to enable them to participate in such decisions. It also includes seeking and taking into account the adult’s views and wishes, whether they are expressed orally, in writing or through interpreters or other ways of communicating.
- substituted judgment - if it is possible to work out from the adult’s previous actions what their views and wishes would be, then these must be taken into account in any decision made.
- maintenance of environment and values: decision makers must recognise the importance of maintaining the adult’s cultural and linguistic environment including any religious beliefs and lifestyle choices.
- appropriate assistance: the assistance given to the adult in a particular situation must meet their current needs and be adapted to their individual characteristics.
- confidentiality: decision makers must recognise the adult’s right to confidentiality about personal information.
Guardians must also apply the health care principle by making sure that whenever they are called upon to make a decision about health care that:
- the health care is necessary and appropriate to maintain or promote the adult’s health or wellbeing, and
- is in the adult’s best interests and to greatest extent possible, reflects the adult’s views.