"The Concept of the Person in the Parens Patriae Jurisdiction over Previously Competent Persons"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy
Publication Type
Journal Article

This article reviews the medieval law background of the parens patriae jurisdiction of the state as it has been exercised over incompetent persons who formerly were competent adults, concluding that the fiduciary standard implied in the statute De Prerogative Regis (1324), which is the basis for modern guardianship status, requires that the court and guardian adopt an attitude of respectful friendship toward the incompetent person, just as though they were to be accountable to the person himself, were he to recover his faculties and become competent once more. This fiduciary responsibility, originating in the device of the “use” or trust employed for the management of the estates of lunatics, contrasts with the self-interested feudal guardianship used for the custody of “natural fools” or “idiots”, who were under paternalistic arrangements. The article argues that because the determination of legal incompetence and the consequent transfer of custody of the person and property of an incompetent person to the state would result in a drastic forfeiture of liberty and property interests were it not for the fiduciary obligation owed by the state to the incompetent, the state is under an obligation to exercise its fiduciary duties in good faith and may not impose states policies or advance state interests of its own in the supervision of the affairs of incompetent persons, apart from interests arising legitimately out of the state's institutional interest in providing competent administration for the benefit of the incompetents themselves.

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