Proxy Decision Making

Proxy decision making (also known as substituted judgment) refers to the use of the legal system to replace one person's judgment with that of another. This process exists to protect individuals from exploitation while allowing them to retain as much decision-making latitude as possible. Society's interests are served by preventing persons with mental disabilities from engaging in physically, financially, or otherwise harmful conduct. Different categories of proxy decision making include substitutions for prior judgment (as previously expressed in wills and other advance directives); present judgment (involving current capacity to provide informed consent to treatment or to refuse treatment); and future judgment (concerning projected ability to conduct personal and financial affairs).

In 1540, the Statute of Wills enabled English citizens for the first time to bequeath “real ...

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