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  #1  
Old 01-29-2006, 11:43 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Can the mentally retarded drink?

I was in a pub the other night and happened to notice someone who looked as though he had Down syndrome drinking with some friends. Now, I know that some people with Down syndrome are intelligent enough to earn college degrees, but seeing him there still got me thinking: if you are an adult retarded to the point where you're about as intelligent as a small child, are you still allowed to buy alcohol? If not, how are merchants and bartenders supposed to know whether or not they can serve you? Seems a bartender would be in quite a bind if an individual with Down syndrome walked into a bar unaccompanied and ordered a beer. Do you serve him the beer, and thus risk prosecution for providing alcohol to a "minor" (cognitively speaking), or do you refuse to serve him, and thus risk prosecution or a lawsuit for illegal discrimination?

I'm aware that laws vary by jurisdiction, but I'm still interested in what would happen in various places, especially for those (if any) in which it is indeed illegal to serve alcohol to the mentally retarded.
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  #2  
Old 01-29-2006, 11:50 AM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Yes. The retarded have all the same rights you have, including:
-free speech
-voting
- sexual rights including birth control, right to have children, and right to abortion
- right to buy and consume alcohol
- drive
- control their own money
- be their own guardians
- etc.

Rights are not terminated simply due to disability, either mental or physical. In order to have them removed, there would have to be a court order and/or a guardian/conservatorship decision.

And yes, I have seen the retarded drunk. IMHE, they puke a lot more easily.
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  #3  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:07 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inkleberry
Yes. The retarded have all the same rights you have, including:
-free speech
-voting
- sexual rights including birth control, right to have children, and right to abortion
- right to buy and consume alcohol
- drive
- control their own money
- be their own guardians
- etc.

Rights are not terminated simply due to disability, either mental or physical. In order to have them removed, there would have to be a court order and/or a guardian/conservatorship decision.

And yes, I have seen the retarded drunk. IMHE, they puke a lot more easily.
I don't know what jurisdiction you're talking about, but nowhere I've lived granted people the right to drive, at least on public roads. People generally have to pass an examination, and sometimes take compulsory courses first. Since driving is skills-based rather than an inherent right, the freedom of the severely mentally or physically disabled to drive is necessarily abridged.

I'm also skeptical of the claim that the profoundly retarded can be their own guardians and manage their own finances. Wouldn't this make them easy pickings for con artists? For example, a criminal could easily seek out retarded adults who can think, read, and write only at a third-grade level and then get them to sign a power of attorney form. The criminal could then take all their money and property with impunity.
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  #4  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:10 PM
hajario hajario is offline
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Driving is absolutely not a right. It is a privilege.

If one is old enough and can pass the written and practical test, the can get a license.
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  #5  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:14 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is online now
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So if two retarded people have a child(as is their right), is the child most likely to be retarded?
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  #6  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:15 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inkleberry
Rights are not terminated simply due to disability, either mental or physical. In order to have them removed, there would have to be a court order and/or a guardian/conservatorship decision.
Oh, and to follow up on my original question: OK, assume that a retarded person has indeed been placed by a court under the guardianship of someone. Would this automatically restrict the retarded person's right to drink? If so, my original question stands: how is a bartender supposed to know which retarded persons can drink and which can't? The situations with minors is rather clear-cut: all young-looking patrons are assumed to be underage unless they produce evidence to the contrary. But you can't assume that all retarded persons are allowed to drink unless they produce evidence to the contrary, because no retarded person who wants to drink illegally is going to voluntarily show the bartender his court injunction.
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  #7  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:21 PM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
I don't know what jurisdiction you're talking about, but nowhere I've lived granted people the right to drive, at least on public roads. People generally have to pass an examination, and sometimes take compulsory courses first. Since driving is skills-based rather than an inherent right, the freedom of the severely mentally or physically disabled to drive is necessarily abridged.
Obviously. But they have the right to drive as long as they pass the test. Many can and do. Severe mental retardation would obviously be limiting, as would say, quadrapeligia. However, the majority of people who are retarded are in the mild range, and could conceiveably pass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
I'm also skeptical of the claim that the profoundly retarded can be their own guardians and manage their own finances. Wouldn't this make them easy pickings for con artists? For example, a criminal could easily seek out retarded adults who can think, read, and write only at a third-grade level and then get them to sign a power of attorney form. The criminal could then take all their money and property with impunity.
Legally, all persons over 18 are there own guardians, unless determined otherwise by the courts. Families of the profoundly retarded usually have guardianship proceedings planned before the person comes of age.

Now, with the mildly mentally retarded (which comprises the majority of people with MR), things are different. Some are there own guardians across the board. Some are their own guardians for medical decisions, living arrangements, etc, but not for finances.

And yes, the problem of being taken advantage of does happen in the community, unfortunately often. However, the retarded aren't *dumb*- and having power over themselves is something they are unlikely to give up.

Do criminals seek out and manipulate the MR? Yes, they do. I am a Program Manager for community living and inclusion program in the area. We have to screen people very carefully, whether they work in our office, have MR folks live with them, act as life skill coaches, volunteer, provide mental health/ theraputic services, whatever. Everyone has to be Livescanned and cleared by DDS. Even that isn't enough though, and you have to watch for people who are predatory.

However, just because someone could be vulnerable doesn't exclude them from having rights. Children, elderly, physically disabled are all examples of vulnerable populations, all of whom hold the same rights as the population in general.
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  #8  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:22 PM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Originally Posted by hajario
Driving is absolutely not a right. It is a privilege.

If one is old enough and can pass the written and practical test, the can get a license.

Correct. I wasn't being clear. They have the right to move about as they wish, and have the right to seek out, apply for, and hold a license, provided they pass the test in their location. Just like anyone else.
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  #9  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:23 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth
So if two retarded people have a child(as is their right), is the child most likely to be retarded?
This depends on the cause of the parents' condition. If it's a heritable genetic condition, then yes, the child is more likely to be retarded than the typical child born to non-retarded parents. However, many types of mental retardation are caused by environmental factors which cannot be passed from parent to child. For example, malnutrition early in life can cause a person to become mentally retarded, though a child born to such a person would not be at greater risk of mental retardation provided it was properly nourished.
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Old 01-29-2006, 12:27 PM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
Oh, and to follow up on my original question: OK, assume that a retarded person has indeed been placed by a court under the guardianship of someone. Would this automatically restrict the retarded person's right to drink?
No.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
If so, my original question stands: how is a bartender supposed to know which retarded persons can drink and which can't? The situations with minors is rather clear-cut: all young-looking patrons are assumed to be underage unless they produce evidence to the contrary. But you can't assume that all retarded persons are allowed to drink unless they produce evidence to the contrary, because no retarded person who wants to drink illegally is going to voluntarily show the bartender his court injunction.
No. This is not the bartender's problem.

I suppose it is possible that a person could have their right to consume alcohol removed, MR or not, if they were chronic DWI people or on parole or something. But it is something I have never see in the realm of MR folks. Certainly not an "automatic" thing.

In any case, it would not be the bartender's problem.
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  #11  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:29 PM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
This depends on the cause of the parents' condition. If it's a heritable genetic condition, then yes, the child is more likely to be retarded than the typical child born to non-retarded parents. However, many types of mental retardation are caused by environmental factors which cannot be passed from parent to child. For example, malnutrition early in life can cause a person to become mentally retarded, though a child born to such a person would not be at greater risk of mental retardation provided it was properly nourished.

Correct, as with fetal alcohol syndrome, various in utero infections, MR caused after birth by traumatic injury, blah blah blah.

MR folks can and do raise children, but usually require family/community supports and services.
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  #12  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:35 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inkleberry
However, just because someone could be vulnerable doesn't exclude them from having rights. Children, elderly, physically disabled are all examples of vulnerable populations, all of whom hold the same rights as the population in general.
This makes absolutely no sense. Young children do not have the same rights as the population in general—they are not allowed to consume alcohol, marry, have sex, manage their own finances, be their own guardians, vote, or apply for driving licenses—and moreover this is the case precisely because they are vulnerable. The law, at least in most Western countries, explicitly states that children are unable to give legal consent, and thus cannot enter into contracts or engage in adult behaviour such as drinking and sex. Why an adult with the mental faculties of a child should not be likewise restricted is not self-evident. (I'm not saying I disagree with abridging the rights of the mentally disabled; I'm just saying that most people would find the analogy between children and adults with the mental capacity of children to be generally correct.)

Anyway, the rules of your jursdiction may not be representative of the various legal systems of the world. Until very recently (late 1970s), in many Western jurisdictions the mentally retarded had no right to have children; this injunction was enforced by compulsory sterilization. I wouldn't be surprised if the right to reproduce were still abridged in other countries.
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  #13  
Old 01-29-2006, 12:57 PM
inkleberry inkleberry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
This makes absolutely no sense. Young children do not have the same rights as the population in general—they are not allowed to consume alcohol, marry, have sex, manage their own finances, be their own guardians, vote, or apply for driving licenses—and moreover this is the case precisely because they are vulnerable. The law, at least in most Western countries, explicitly states that children are unable to give legal consent, and thus cannot enter into contracts or engage in adult behaviour such as drinking and sex. Why an adult with the mental faculties of a child should not be likewise restricted is not self-evident. (I'm not saying I disagree with abridging the rights of the mentally disabled; I'm just saying that most people would find the analogy between children and adults with the mental capacity of children to be generally correct.)
True. And excellent points.. Children do not have certain age restricted rights, such as voting, drinking, and driving. They are assumed to be unable to give consent for sexual activity. However, they have the regular human rights such as the right to be free from abuse, free speech, religion (even in group homes they must be allowed to attend services of their choice), medical care, some amount of say in medical decisions, etc. Just because they are vulnerable does not restrict their basic constitutional and human rights.


The idea that MR people= children or child-like is a popular myth, unfortunately supported for a long time by professionals. They aren't. Someone with MR may have the *cognitive* reasoning of a child, and perhaps the *emotional responses* of a child, but they are NOT children. The majority of MR people are a lot like yourself- same dreams and goals, can be manipulative, secretive, or clever, can make plans, can have adult relationships and marriages, etc. I have seen few MR folks, even in the severe range, whom I would catagorize as "child-like."


Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
Anyway, the rules of your jursdiction may not be representative of the various legal systems of the world. Until very recently (late 1970s), in many Western jurisdictions the mentally retarded had no right to have children; this injunction was enforced by compulsory sterilization. I wouldn't be surprised if the right to reproduce were still abridged in other countries.
I have no idea what goes on in other countries regarding this issue. I do know, however, that since the '70s forced sterilization is illegal. I have seen clients in programs in MA, CT, and CA that were sterilized forcibly (usually as children for the women) pre-1970's. That is no longer the case, though, and courts have upheld the right for the MR to have children since that time.

Yes, of course you will find cases where judges have ruled that women who aren't MR have had to have norplant inserted or be sterilized, usually involving drug use or repeated child neglect, but these cases are very controversial, and I'm not sure how many stand. They also are part of a larger issue of reproductive rights, not MR rights in general.
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  #14  
Old 01-29-2006, 01:19 PM
Analogue Skywalker Analogue Skywalker is offline
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There is a man in my social circle that was born fetal alcohol syndrome and is obviously mentally handicapped or "retarded". Everytime I go to the establishment that I frequent, he is there drinking.
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  #15  
Old 01-30-2006, 04:08 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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AFAIK, as long as you're at or beyond the state-specified age, have the necessary knowledge and can demonstrate that you're physically able to control a car, you have a right to apply for a drivers licence. The license itself is a privilege.

Last I looked, our Bill of Rights does not say "unless you are mentally impaired, have red hair or are named Forrest"
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