What should guardians consider in making decisions for wards?
The Office of Public Guardian recommends that guardians follow the decision-making guidelines of the National Guardianship Association (NGA). Under these guidelines, a guardian should first consider any preferences or wishes expressed by a ward before the ward became incapacitated. If the ward’s preferences can be determined, the guardian should honor those preferences.
If the ward has not left advance direction about his or her preferences, the guardian should act as a “substitute decision- maker” and make decisions based on what the ward would want if the ward were not incapacitated. The guardian should:
- Determine the ward’s current wishes, if possible
- Consider the ward’s values, culture, religious beliefs and personal history
- Consult with the ward’s family and friends and health professionals who are likely to know of the ward’s preferences and wishes
The guardian should use substitute decision-making to make decisions for the ward unless the guardian concludes that the ward will experience serious and unacceptable harm from a decision.
In situations where the above decision-making methods are not possible or acceptable, the guardian should make decisions based on the “best interest” of the ward. This means making an informed decision, after consulting with professionals knowledgeable about the proposed action and weighing the reasons for the proposed action, the risks and benefits and the available alternatives.
Whatever decision-making guidelines guardians use, guardians always have a legal duty to make decisions that protect the rights, interests and well being of their wards.