The US Senate is taking up the issue of ratifying the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and today’s media coverage is full of stories about the GOP opposing ratification of any treaty, including this one, during the lame duck session. I am posting this link to the PDF of the treaty so people can read it and decide for themselves.
Rick Santorum is reportedly opposing the treaty on two provisions, one involving reproductive rights, and the other a provision that says the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration for children with disabilities (Article 23(2 & 4), p. 16). He, and several other groups, are concerned that this could lead to the state, and not the parents, making decisions on what is in the best interest of a child.
Article 23 actually addresses the rights of children of disabled parents, but I can see how this standard might be used in the future outside its purpose in this Article.
In our opinion, we do not believe the provisions referencing “best interests” in the UN Convention constitute a significant enough concern to delay or deny ratification of the Convention by the US, and we encourage the US Senate to pass it.
The discussion about “best interests” does cause us to revisit an issue about the rights of disabled persons in the US. I am concerned about the efforts of the State (federal or state govts and agencies) to adopt paternalistic regulations that give them rights to decide for children and adults with disabilities what they believe is in the best interests of the individual over the rights of the individuals themselves and their parents and guardians to make those decisions.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have been attempting to rewrite Medicaid regulations for several years to do just this, using access to Medicaid funds as a weapon to force their agenda.
In CMS’ most recent efforts, they have proposed a notion of “substituted judgment” to prevail over “best interests” in which the state could force a disabled person into a residential setting not of their choosing based on what CMS or a state agency determine that they think the individual “meant to choose.”
We believe in CHOICE in its purest form.
We are encouraged to see in the UN Convention these provisions:
Article 18 (p. 13) “State Parties shall recognize the rights of person with disabilities…to freedom to choose their residence…”
Article 19(a) (p. 13) “Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement.”
We hope the ratification of the UN Convention by the US Senate would help provide advocates of CHOICE more tools to fight efforts by CMS and other groups to limit choice based on their own misguided paternalistic perspectives.