Introduction

IN FROM THE MARGINS:  NEW FOUNDATIONS FOR PERSONHOOD AND LEGAL CAPACITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY

A Peter Wall Institute Exploratory Workshop
April 29 - May 1, 2011

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force on May 3, 2008.  Article 12 affirms the rights of persons with disabilities to receive recognition as persons before the law and calls on State Parties to recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life and to take appropriate measures to provide access to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.

The idea that all persons with disabilities (including those with cognitive impairments) be recognized as persons before the law and enjoy legal capacity challenges one of the fundamental tenets of western moral and legal philosophy: that moral, and by extension legal status, is dependent on having a certain level or type of reason.  In essence, Article 12 challenges the basis of law related to all those who have significant cognitive impairments, including those with dementia and those with intellectual and mental disabilities.  As this centuries-old divide between legal capacity and incapacity becomes more porous, little is understood about how to recast the criteria of moral and legal personhood and capacity.  Knowledge is lacking about appropriate legal, political, and programming responses impacting governments, the justice system, the human services, and the health, financial and legal professions.  

This symposium will bring together leading national and international scholars from  Law, Disability Studies, Gerontology, Social Work, Ethics, Medicine, Psychology and Philosophy along with key civil society representatives to examine from a ‘ground up’ perspective the issues raised by Article 12.   The symposium will focus on: 1) the conceptual foundations of moral and legal personhood; 2) the definition and criteria for legal capacity found in ethics and law; 3) implications for law and policy for adult protection, substitute and supported decision-making, health and social care consent, contract and criminal law; and 4) emerging social and legal forms of support and reasonable accommodation that enable people with significant cognitive or psychosocial disabilities to maximize their legal capacity.

Following a public dialogue on Friday, April 29 from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the University Centre, Sage Bistro, East Dining Room, a closed door symposium of the key speakers will take place on April 30 and May 1, 2011 at the Peter Wall Institute Conference Rooms.

"In From the Margins: New Foundations for Personhood and Legal Capacity in the 21st Century" is a Peter Wall Institute Exploratory Workshop funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia awarded to Principal Investigator Tim Stainton, School of Social Work, University of British Columbia.

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