What decision-making arrangements are we thinking about?
When a person’s decision-making is affected, other people might be involved in their decisions. Sometimes people are involved in another person’s decision without the law needing to step in. Other arrangements are set out in law.
People’s experiences of affected decision-making can vary widely. We think the law will need to provide for a range of decision-making arrangements. We describe some possible ways below.
Many people with affected decision-making are already supported informally to make decisions by friends and family. For example, someone might help their sibling to understand information about a decision or to communicate a decision.
There will always be an important role for this kind of informal decision-making support. However, we have heard that sometimes it can be difficult for informal supporters to help because they have no legal powers or status. For example, they might not be given access to personal information about the person they are supporting. We are thinking about how the law could make it easier for people to provide decision-making support.
This is when a person records in advance what they want to be done if something happens to them in the future, for example if they become unwell. Advance directives are sometimes used in Aotearoa New Zealand for healthcare decisions, but their legal status is unclear.
Enduring powers of attorney
This where a person appoints another person to make decisions for them if they are assessed not to have decision-making capacity in the future, for example due to developing dementia. These already exist in the current law but some people think they could work better.
Making decisions for someone else under a court order
A court can make decisions for people whose decision-making is affected, such as where they must live or what medical treatment they must have. A court can also appoint someone else to make decisions on behalf of a person (for example a welfare guardian or property manager).
These kinds of court orders can only be made if the person is assessed not to have ‘decision-making capacity’. They can be made without the person’s consent.
Collective decision-making processes and decisions
Some people think the law should provide more ways for other people, like family and whānau, to participate in decision-making arrangements, or to jointly make decisions with a person whose decision-making is affected.
Making decision-making arrangements work better
We are also thinking about whether there are other things that could make decision-making arrangements easier or more effective for people with affected decision-making and those around them. These could be practical things like providing template documents, or offering training to supporters who are helping people to make decisions.