New Zealand Law Society - Legal professionals express concern for people held in aged care facilities without consent

Legal professionals express concern for people held in aged care facilities without consent

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A new report, which has input from lawyers and a judge, published by the Human Rights Commission raises concerns about the legal and human rights safeguards for an estimated 5,000 elderly New Zealanders in secure dementia units and psychogeriatric facilities.

The publication, This Is Not My Home, considers the legal and ethical issues around residential care for older people when the care is provided without the person’s consent. The report contains a collection of essays from lawyers, doctors, academics and a District Court judge.

It is co-edited by Dr Mark Fisher and Janet Anderson-Bidois with contributions from Judge Philip Recordon, lawyers Alison Douglass, Andrew Finnie, Iris Reuvecamp, and Michael White, and Kate Diesfeld, Professor of Law at Auckland University of Technology.

This is Not My Home identifies serious issues with the current legislative frameworks and associated policy and practices, such as a lack of legal safeguards protecting the rights of people placed in care.

“The report is concerning to read,” says acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

“Mark Fisher has previously cited about 4,000 New Zealanders being detained in secure dementia units, with a further 1,000 in residential psychogeriatric facilities.

“Very few of these people have formally consented to being held in these locked facilities, so it is critical that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure everyone’s rights and preferences are respected to the greatest extent possible,” says Ms Tesoriero.

“This requires a real commitment to actively support individual decision-making. I hope that the calls for law reform and change of practice identified by the contributors will be carefully considered by all those who can influence change in this area.”

Ms Tesoriero says that strong advocacy for this group of New Zealanders is critical, including more work to understand their perspectives.

“We do not know much about how they feel about the situations they are in or what it is like to be forced, against your will, to live in a place that is not your home and is not where you want to be.”