Megan Mason Dister
In In re Protective Proceedings of Nora D., 485 P.3d 1058 (Alaska 2021), the supreme court held, under Alaska’s guardianship statute, Alaska Statute section 13.26.241(a), a respondent may refuse to answer questions in an interview other than questions about the respondent’s capacity to make personal medical decisions. (Id. at 1060). Nora’s grandson, Kevin, applied to be appointed as Nora’s legal guardian to replace her state conservatorship. (Id.). During a superior court hearing regarding the guardianship, Kevin requested a mental examination conducted by his expert because Nora’s mental capacity was at issue. (Id.). The superior court granted the motion, ordered the mental examination, and forbid Nora from being silent during the examination. (Id. at 1061). Nora appealed to the supreme court. (Id.). The supreme court reversed the superior court, reasoning the text of section 13.26.241(a) supports a narrow exception to a respondent’s general right to refuse to respond to questions. (Id. at 1064–65). Common law, Supreme Court precedent, and the Alaska Constitution recognize a right to refuse medical treatment, so the state legislature created a requirement for respondent to answer questions to ensure there is sufficient evidence before a guardian takes over making decisions about respondent’s body. (Id. at 1066). The legislative history and policy support this reading because the legislature sought to increase due process protections and protect the rights of incapacitated persons with this statute. (Id. at 1066). Reversing the lower court decision, the supreme court held under Alaska Statute section 13.26.241(a) a respondent may only be compelled to answer questions about the respondent’s capacity to make personal medical decisions. (Id. at 1067).