Enabling Disabled People to Live Good Lives: Embedding supported decision-making into disability law in Aotearoa, New Zealand
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The freedom, dignity and rights of disabled people is affirmed and protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Under the UNCRPD, disabled people are guaranteed equality before the law and entitled to equal protection and benefit of the law. Up to the 20th century, the prevailing view, internationally and domestically, was that disabled people were, by virtue of their disability, incapable of living autonomously and independently. This led to disabled people being excluded from mainstream society and relegated to second-class citizens. Disabled people have been denied legal personality, leading to institutionalisation and disenfranchisement. Consequently, disabled people continue to face significant barriers to realising full and equal enjoyment of dignity and rights due to social stigma, ignorance, legal and institutional ignorance of disability issues. Article 12 of the UNCRPD requires States to abolish substitute decision-making regimes and replace them with supported decision-making. This paper explores how we can reimagine our domestic legal frameworks using the principles of supported decision-making to empower disabled people in Aotearoa New Zealand to attain freedom and equality in dignity and rights. Using a supported decision-making model empowers disabled people to make their own decisions in a way that is appropriate to their circumstances. It is suggested that this is the key to increasing autonomy and self-determination amongst disabled people enabling them to participate in society and live freely and equally in dignity and rights. This dissertation focuses on the concept of supported decision-making and argues for the implementation of a Supported Decision-Making Bill in New Zealand. The draft Bill included in this dissertation is designed to give effect to the rights of disabled people to live their lives according to their will and preference and ensure that New Zealand complies with its obligations under international human rights law, particularly art 12 of the UNCRPD.