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Linda Barclay

Abstract

It has been argued by disability advocates that supported decision-making must replace surrogate, or substituted, decision-making for people with cognitive disabilities. From a moral perspective surrogate decision-making it is said to be an indefensible form of paternalism. At the heart of this argument against surrogate decision-making is the belief that such paternalistic action expresses something fundamentally disrespectful about those upon whom it is imposed: that they are inferior, deficient or child-like in some way. Contrary to this widespread belief, I will argue that surrogate decision-making often expresses more respect for people with life-long, ‘severe’ or ‘profound’ cognitive disabilities than does the adoption of supported decision-making. Specifically, I argue that in some cases supported decision-making can arguably express that people with cognitive disabilities lack equal moral value. I also argue that supported decision-making for people with profound intellectual disabilities can arguably express that they lack complex and rich inner lives. If our aim is to ensure our behaviour and practices express respect for people with life-long cognitive disabilities, then sometimes surrogate rather than supportive decision-making will be a better option.


 

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