Mental Capacity Act
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) helps people aged 16 years and over who lack mental capacity, and those who take decisions on their behalf.
- Aspects of common law relating to capacity and consent
- Who can take decisions
- How they should go about this
It affects anyone who has contact with people who lack capacity, for example, due to a learning disability, stroke, illness, mental disorder, effects of drugs or alcohol or brain injury, and also enables people to plan for a time when they may lose capacity.
It is important to remember that these conditions do not in themselves mean that a person lacks the capacity to make a particular decision.
The Mental Capacity Act is underpinned by five statutory principles:
- A presumption of capacity – Every adult has the right to make their own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to do so, unless it is established that they lack capacity.
- Individuals being supported to make their own decisions – A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him or her to do so have been taken without success.
- Unwise decisions – A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he or she makes an unwise decision.
- Best interests – An act done or decision made under this Act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made, in their best interests.
- Least restrictive option – Anything done for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity should be the least restrictive of their rights and freedom of action.