Wednesday, July 06, 2005

For all people who cry out to be free

In Manitoba, it seems, you're not as much the citizen you think you are, so much as the plaything of government agencies. The Blue Maple Leaf points to a fairly horrifying case of lost liberty at the whims of unaccountable provincial bureaucrats: A doctor, any medical doctor -- it doesn't have to be a psychiatrist -- can examine a patient and deem them incompetent. The doctor doesn't have to tell the patient or the family that the assessment may lead to the government taking over their lives. The doctor fills out a one-page, Manitoba Health certificate of incapacity and sends it to the province's director of psychiatric services. The director reviews it and asks for a social history of the person in question, which may come from health care workers who have interacted with the patient, including home care staff. The director sends a letter to the person named in the certificate and to the family, informing them of his intent to have the Public Trustee take over. The family can make arguments in writing objecting to the proposed take-over. But here's the crux: The director does not interview the person or the family and makes no home visit. If there are allegations of abuse against family members, the director does not try to verify them independently. This may be the best argument for limited government I've ever seen. What's to stop the Office of the Public Trustee, or the province, from defining down the precise bounds of legal incompetence? Having seized this power to control the lives of those deemed necessary, what guarantees are there ever going to be that it won't be spectacularly mishandled, as in the current case, or outright abused? Consider the justification given for forcibly making Thomas Hanaway a ward of the state, from the latter article: The psychiatrist who did the assessment of Hanaway in April wrote two lines in his certificate of incapacity: "Cognitive impairment, with poor calculation and comprehension. He is unable to understand his finances or implications of poor financial decisions. He does not appreciate risks of poor financial decisions." That would be a terrifyingly vague statement to base the Public Trustee's actions on, even if it wasn't in a province with an NDP government. What personal financial decisions not involving voluntary abasement before the altar of the public good do socialists not consider "poor" or "risky?" (Via SDA.)

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