Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is a law which came into force in 2007. It covers people in England and Wales and is designed to safeguard the rights of, and to empower individuals who can’t make some or all decisions for themselves. It is a law that applies to individuals aged 16 and over.

The ability to understand and make a decision when it needs to be made is called ‘mental capacity’. Examples of people who may lack mental capacity include those with:

  • dementia
  • a severe learning disability
  • a brain injury
  • a mental health condition
  • a stroke
  • unconsciousness caused by an anaesthetic or sudden accident

The MCA has five main principles:

•Everyone has the right to make his or her own decisions. Health and care professionals should always assume an individual has the capacity to make a decision themselves, unless it is proved otherwise through a capacity assessment.

•Individuals must be given help to make a decision themselves. This might include, for example, providing the person with information in a format that is easier for them to understand.

•Just because someone makes what those caring for them consider to be an "unwise" decision, they should not be treated as lacking the capacity to make that decision. Everyone has the right to make their own life choices, where they have the capacity to do so.

•Where someone is judged not to have the capacity to make a specific decision (following a capacity assessment), that decision can be taken for them, but it must be in their best interests.

•Treatment and care provided to someone who lacks capacity should be the least restrictive of their basic rights and freedoms possible, while still providing the required treatment and care.

For more detail on the specifics on the MCA please follow the links shown below.

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