Lunacy Act Replaced By Assisted Decision Making Provisions

Ireland’s national parliament (the Oireachtas) has repealed the 144-year-old lunacy act.

The law has been replaced by the new Assisted Decision Making Act, which gives every citizen in Ireland the right to have their say in the way they are cared for.

The new rules under the Act will also bring in a legal recognition of advance healthcare directives and get rid of the old ward of court system. The new law starts with the presumption that anyone is able to make a decision unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

If that is the case, then procedures are put in place to enhance a person’s capacity to make decisions so that they are able to exercise their rights to make the decisions about themselves by themselves.

The legislation replaces the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and it means there will no longer be wards of court – instead, decision-making assistants, co-decision makers or an attorney will be appointed, depending on the person’s capacity. As the law stood, wards of court were denied the possibility of making decisions on important matters such as getting married.

The new legislation will allow for the court to step in when it rules that a person lacks the capacity to make decisions and the courts will be able to appoint the decision-making representative on the person’s behalf.

An office is to be set up within the Courts Service called the Decision Support Service, which will have a director who is to prepare a code of conduct for the sectors involved in decision support for people with limited capacity, such as doctors, lawyers and financial institutions.

In addition, the new provisions will take the decision-making option away from the courts so decision-makers can’t be forced on someone and legal costs can be avoided.

Enactment of the bill is seen as a key step in enabling Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality, Kathleen Fitzgerald.