Thursday, May 22, 2014
One of the speakers for the World Congress on Adult Guardianships, taking place next week in the Washington D.C. area, is visiting this week at Penn State Dickinson School of Law.
Prof. Dr. Dagmar Brosey, from Cologne University of Applied Sciences, is part of a two-person panel titled "Adult Guardianship Decision-Making Process: Psychomorphological and Legal Perspectives." Professor Brosey, a lawyer, teaches courses on law for social work students, including advanced degree students. During her visit, we've been talking about similarities and differences in approaches between Germany and the U.S. to protection and advocacy for adults, including older adults.
For example, I've learned that Germany has moved away from "guardianships" (as Americans often describe a court-appointed system of substitute decision-makers) to a system which does not require a finding of "incapacity" in order to permit appointment of a "Betreuer," a German word which translates into English as "custodian." A literal translation by itself is not quite adequate, as Dr. Brosey explains a German "Betreuer" also functions as a type of "legal caregiver." The Betreuer therefore has great responsibilities to ascertain the capabilities, desires and interests of the principal, rather than simply make decisions "for" the principal. Professor Brosey also emphasizes that the modern German approach should be "person-centered," and involves recognition of "necessity" to determine the scope of the appointed person's authority to make decisions.
A deeper understanding of the 22-year old German system will help the thinking of Americans and others, who are often more familiar with the historic view on how guardianships should function. The contrast in approaches is central to the debates that are likely to take place at the Congress next week. Even in Germany, with its modern approach, there is discussion underway about whether the Betreuer's role should be one of "supported decision-making" or "shared-decision-making," or "substituted-decision making."
Professor Brosey's co-presenter, Prosper Ayawei, from the Bayelsa State Government of Nigeria, has a background in psychology. Thus, his emphasis is on a "psychomorphological" analysis. The contrast between their two presentations should be very illuminating. Their breakout session is scheduled for Thursday, May 29 at 1:45 p.m.
For more on the packed schedule for this important conference, here's a link to the program.