Mental Capacity Act
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is intended to protect and empower individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment. It is a law that applies to individuals aged 16 and over.
Examples of people who may lack capacity include those with:
•a severe learning disability
•a brain injury
•a mental health condition
•unconsciousness caused by an anaesthetic or sudden accident.
However, just because a person has one of these conditions does not necessarily mean they lack the capacity to make a specific decision.
Someone can lack capacity to make some decisions (for example, to decide on complex financial issues) but still have the capacity to make other decisions (for example, to decide what items to buy at the local shop).
The MCA also allows people to express their preferences for care and treatment in case they lack capacity to make these decisions. It also allows them to appoint a trusted person to make a decision on their behalf should they lack capacity in the future.
People should also be provided with an independent advocate who will support them to make decisions in certain situations, such as serious treatment or where the individual might have significant restrictions placed on their freedom and rights in their best interests.
The Court of Protection oversees the operation of the Mental Capacity Act and deals with all issues, including financial and serious healthcare matters, concerning people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions.
The court also tries to resolve all disputes when the person's carer, healthcare worker or social worker disagrees about what's in the person's best interests, or when the views of the attorneys conflict in relation to property and welfare.
The court hears important cases, such as whether the NHS should withdraw treatment, whether a serious medical treatment decision is in a person's best interests, or whether it is in a person's best interests to be deprived of their liberty. Cases can be brought to the court by family members, as well as advocates and professionals involved in decisions.
The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be granted to another person (or people) to enable them to make decisions about your health and welfare, or decisions about your property and financial affairs. Separate legal documents are made for each of these decisions, appointing one or more attorneys for each. See the Office of Public Guardianship GOV.UK webpage for further information.