As a guardian, your primary responsibility is to make decisions for the care of your ward. It is crucial to always act in their best interest, prioritizing their autonomy, independence, and rights above anyone else's, including the ward's family or friends. A key principle in safeguarding these rights is the Doctrine of Informed Consent.
Informed Consent means that a person voluntarily agrees to something based on complete and accurate information about the situation. As a guardian, you stand in place of the ward and should receive the same information and freedom of choice they would have received. Making an informed decision requires having sufficient information, free from coercion, to ensure the decision is voluntary. Without meeting these requirements, it is not possible to make an informed decision.
Whenever a decision needs to be made, it is important for you as the guardian to gather comprehensive information about the proposed treatment or action. Consider the following questions:
- What is the proposed treatment or action?
- What procedures will be followed?
- Who will perform the treatment or action?
- What are the possible risks, side effects, or discomforts?
- What is the intended outcome?
- What steps will be taken to minimize risks?
- What alternatives are available?
- What will happen if nothing is done?
- Why is the treatment or action necessary now?
While evaluating this information, take into account any preferences of the ward that can be determined, either presently or prior to your appointment as their guardian. Seeking input from family members may be appropriate and helpful, and it may be necessary to obtain a second professional opinion.
Do not make a decision until all your questions have been answered in understandable terms. Remember, you have the right to seek a second opinion if you have any outstanding concerns or if you feel uncomfortable with the information received. AGS provides a wealth of resources to support our guardians in the decision-making process, many of which are covered in this material. Our staff can connect you with medical experts, mental health experts, disability experts, and more.
When providing Informed Consent, you should never be coerced into making a decision. The person proposing the treatment or action should inform you of your right to refuse consent, and you have the freedom to withdraw your consent at any time without facing any punitive actions. Additionally, it is essential to inquire about the potential consequences for your ward if consent is not granted.
It is important to understand that once consent is given for ongoing treatment or a program, you have the authority to withdraw it at any time in the future. This emphasizes the need for vigilant monitoring and evaluation of the treatment once it is implemented.
In certain situations, you may choose to give time-limited consent by specifying a date when it becomes invalid. This approach is often effective when trying new medications or behavioral treatment plans.
For long-term treatment, it is advisable to grant consent for a period of no longer than one year. This allows you to reassess and ask any new or lingering questions at the end of the 12-month period, providing an opportunity to review the treatment and ensure it continues to align with your ward's best interests.
AGS is here to support you every step of the way, providing resources, expertise, and guidance. Together, we can navigate the complexities of guardianship and make a positive difference in the life of your ward. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to this important role.