Office of Adult Guardianship

There is currently an act before the Massachusetts Legislature to establish the Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services. (S.1177/H3027). The purpose of the bill is to provide guardianship services to “unbefriended” people who are unable to manage their affairs.

These people are the most vulnerable in society. They have no one to complain if they are subjected to abuse by a guardian. They are the perfect victims. Any system for providing guardianship services to the “unbefriended” has to have iron clad protections against abuse.

On the contrary, this bill gives immunity to guardians. Guardians are already given immunity by judges of the Probate Court. Regardless of the intent of this immunity the result has been to create a system of legalized crime where guardians commit crimes with impunity. Other health care providers (doctors, nursing homes, etc. ) have to carry liability insurance. Conservators have to be bonded. Guardians should have liability insurance, not immunity.

Democracy was invented to prevent abuse of authority by government. The best way to stop abuse of guardianship is to use principles of democracy such as separation of powers (no one has sole control), checks and balances, accountability (no immunity), avoiding conflict of interest by putting authority in the hands of disinterested parties, etc.

The current bill has none of these protections of democracy. The Governor’s Advisory Council has no authority. A careful reading of the bill shows that the Executive Director of the Office of the Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services is the only entity given any authority. The Office of Adult Guardianship has no authority as an entity. All its duties and powers are executed by the Executive Director.

I have attempted to rewrite the bill in a way that makes maximum use of the principles of democracy to prevent abuse of power.

Massachusetts Legislature Poised to Give Immunity to “Guardians”

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Will Brownsberger
State Senator
2d Suffolk and Middlesex District