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Commentary |

Preserving Rights for Individuals Facing Guardianship

Jennifer Moye, PhD; Aanand D. Naik, MD
JAMA. 2011;305(9):936-937. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.247.
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The issue of adult guardianship poses increasing challenges in an aging society. Physicians play an essential role in ensuring its equitable and appropriate application. Yet physicians may be unaware of the evolution of guardianship law over the past 2 decades.

Physicians are knowledgeable about their older patients' functioning and such patients' experiences with elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. As a result, physicians are identified to provide opinions regarding the capacity of their patients to live safely in the community or to manage health and financial affairs when a question of guardianship is raised. In most states, guardianship concerns the capacity to make personal decisions about health, home, and personal matters, and conservatorship concerns decisions about financial management. Guardianship and conservatorship are legal interventions by the state in which the rights to make decisions are removed from one person and assigned to another after a hearing. Reform of guardianship law throughout the United States places physician reports in a central evidentiary role for balancing individual rights with protections for older adults facing guardianship.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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