Comparisons are being made between Ireland's Wardship system and a conservatorship that US singer Britney Spears has been under since 2008.
The US conservatorship made headlines around the world following a new documentary earlier this year.
There are currently some 2,500 adult wards in Ireland, but all these are due to be reviewed under a new system.
The Decision Support Service is set to be up and running next year to replace the Wards of Court system here.
Áine Flynn is director of the Decision Support Service. She told The Pat Kenny Show the piece of legislation that regulates it needs to be updated.
"There are certainly parallels, there are similarities between the conservatorship - which exists in Britney Spears case... and the system which operates here in Ireland.
"We have the Wards of Court system, which is principally operated under a very old piece of legislation called the Lunacy Regulation Ireland Act of 1871.
"So it's some 150 years in existence".
She says the system allows someone to make an application through the courts, mainly the High Court, for decisions to be made on behalf of someone who is perceived to lack capacity to do so.
"That could be something like the management of an inheritance or award of compensation, or a significant healthcare decision.
"The applicant is usually a family member, sometimes it's the HSE, and the court can then - following a medical assessment - make a finding that this is a person who's of unsound mind."
The court can then move into a decision-making role, with committees being appointed for the person at the centre of the case.
These committees are usually a person or people who are family members.
'A blunt instrument'
Asked how one can get out of such a position, Áine says the situation has improved recently.
"When somebody is made a Ward of Court, I understand things have improved in the wardship court so that these decisions are kept more closely under review by the court.
"And I think improvements have been made so that the voice of the ward is heard - representation and advocacy supports are provided.
"But it is not a finite arrangement: it can be open-ended, and often arrangements of wardship do last for the rest of the person's life".
And she says the system can have serious knock-on effects.
"This has been described as a blunt instrument in effect, so that you might be taken into wardship to manage one of those specific matters.... but that finding of you being of unsound mind means that a lot of your other routine and day to day decision-making devolves away from you."
Giving an example of one woman she acted for, she says the woman in question had to get court approval for almost everything.
"I acted for a woman who was quite capably leading her own life: she had a job, she'd a family.
"She was made a Ward of Court following a significant compensation award, and after that she found that she was unable to apply for a passport without permission of the court.
"She wasn't free herself to consent to routine medical decisions, which clearly was a significant incursion on her personal freedoms."
But Áine says the system is set to change when the new Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act comes into force.
"[This] abolishes the Wards of Court system, all current Wards of Court - and I understand there's something like 2,500 current adult wards - all of those current adult Wards of Courts will be entitled to have their cases reviewed.
"And will transition out of wardship, and where appropriate, will benefit from the supports offered by the new act".