Sometimes as a result of illness or injury, it can be difficult to determine whether we are able to make informed decisions about day-to-day life or important decisions about care and treatment or finances and property. The ability to make decisions is called mental capacity. People may have difficulties making decisions either all or some of the time. The Mental Capacity Act sets out provisions for protecting people and promoting their independence.
Sometimes it may be difficult for people to make decisions because they have:
- A learning disability
- A mental health problem
- A brain injury or stroke
How the act affects you
The Act affects people aged 16 or over. If you are unable to make some decisions, the Act explains:
- You should have as much help as possible to make your own decisions
- How an assessment of capacity is made about whether you are able to make a particular decision at a particular time
- That even if you do not have the capacity to make a very complicated decision for yourself, this does not mean that you are unable to make more straightforward decisions
- That even if someone has to make a decision on your behalf, you must still be involved in this as much as possible
- That anyone making a decision on your behalf must do so in your best interests
- That there is a new safeguard, the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA), to represent you if you lack capacity to make certain important decisions and there is no one else who
can be consulted
For the future, the act...
- Allows you to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enabling you to appoint someone to make decisions about your finance and property or your health care and welfare should you ever lack the capacity to make these decisions yourself
- Enables you to make an ‘advance decision to refuse treatment’ if there is a particular medical treatment you would not wish to receive at a time in the future when you may lack capacity to refuse it
For families, or other unpaid carers, the act...
- Will help you understand how and when you can act on behalf of someone who lacks capacity to make decisions – and the safeguards and limitations if you are doing this
- Says that you should be consulted by professionals when, for example, a doctor makes a decision about treatment for a family member who lacks capacity