Addiction and the law : a case-study of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Laws
The thesis presents a case study of New Zealand's Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966 - a civil commitment law used to detain alcoholics and drug addicts for up to two years in state-certified residential treatment facilities. The thesis positions itself as a call for legislative reform. The central argument is that the Act is an anachronistic and potentially draconian piece of social legislation which has no place on the modern-day New Zealand statute book. In the first part of the thesis, Chapter 1 introduces the research, outlines the structure and methodology of the thesis, and locates the study within a wider tradition of scholarship on the management of people with alcohol problems. Chapter 2 summarises the analytical framework that is used to evaluate the Act, attaching particular importance to both the philosophical traditions and the practical strategies of harm minimisation and therapeutic jurisprudence. Chapter 3 gives a positivist reading of the legislation : outlining the evolution of the Act, essaying its major provisions, and noting the efforts that have been made to refine or reform the statute since it was passed in the mid-1960s. Chapter 4 draws on the limited amount of data available to describe how the Act is currently operating 'on the ground'. In the second part of the thesis, the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act is put into a comparative context by describing examples of similar-type statutes that exist in two other jurisdictions. Chapter 5 focuses on the New South Wales Inebriates Act 1912; Chapter 6 focuses on the Swedish Act on Care of Addicts in Certain Cases 1989. The final part of the thesis builds a case for reform of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act. Chapter 7 identifies various practical and clinical problems with the Act, which mean that the statute does not work in instrumental terms. It is submitted that the Act cannot be said to make better provision for the care and treatment of alcoholics. Chapter 8 highlights several legal and philosophical difficulties with the Act, which mean that the legislation does not work in value terms. It is submitted that the Act is offensive to the right to refuse treatment and fundamentally conflicts with the principles of individual autonomy and informed consent. Chapter 9 proposes three options for reforming the Act, expressing a preference for the outright repeal of the statute. Finally, Chapter 10 draws conclusions from the preceding discussion, and speculates on the likelihood that the recommended reforms will be implemented.