Supported Decision-Making: Non-Domination Rather Than Mental Prosthesis

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Recently, bioethicists and the UNCRPD have advocated for supported medical decision-making on behalf of patients with intellectual disabilities. But what does supported decision-making really entail? One compelling framework is Anita Silvers and Leslie Francis’ mental prosthesis account, which envisions supported decision-making as a process in which trustees act as mere appendages for the patient’s will; the trustee provides the cognitive tools the patient requires to realize her conception of her own good. We argue that supported decision-making would be better understood as a collaborative process, giving patients with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to make decisions in a respectful relationship with trusted others. We offer an alternative account of supported decision-making where the primary constraint is to protect the patient from domination by the trustee. This is advantageous in its preservation of the prospects for genuine collaboration, for the mental prosthesis approach ultimately reinforces a problematic ideal of isolated patient self-determination.
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Archival date: 2021-08-14
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