NYLS Journal of International and Comparative Law

'Things Have Changed': Looking at Non-Institutional Mental Disability Law Through the Sanism Filter


Almost all the literature about the influence of sanism and pretextuality on the development of mentaldisability law has dealt with questions of institutionalization and the rights of persons who are subject to commitment to in-patient psychiatric hospitals. Problems of mental disability, however, are not solely institutional problems. A significant percentage of the public - the vast majority of whom will never be in peril of institutionalization - exhibit some sort of serious mental illness during their lifetime. A much larger percentage exhibits some sign of mental disability or mental disorder. And this population - like the rest of the population - frequently has problems that require resolution by a lawyer and the legal system, among them, contract problems, property problems, domestic relations problems, and trusts and estates problems. In this paper, I consider why there has been so little literature dealing with these issues, and call on scholars to turn their attention to the way that sanism and pretextuality infect this aspect of mental disability law as well.