What is Mental Capacity?

The phrase “mental capacity” describes a person’s aptitude for understanding information and making decisions about their own lives. The evaluation of a person’s capacity for decision-making is guided by five basic concepts related to mental capacity.

Here are the five(5) basic concepts

Presumption of Capacity: Unless there is proof to the contrary, one should presume that a person is capable of making judgements.

Supportive Decision-Making: It is important to do everything in your power to help someone make their own decisions. This entails giving them the knowledge and tools they need to make wise decisions.

Ability Despite Poor Decisions: Having made a poor choice does not always mean that one is incapable of thinking clearly. Individuals are free to make decisions that others might consider not prudent as long as they are aware of the repercussions.

Best Interests: Any decisions made on behalf of an individual should be in their best interests if it is determined that they lack the capacity to make a particular decision. This principle guarantees that the decision made is in line with what would be best for the person.

Least Restrictive Option: When making decisions on behalf of someone without capacity, the chosen actions should be the least restrictive in terms of the person’s basic rights and freedoms. This principle emphasizes the importance of respecting the individual’s autonomy to the greatest extent possible.

These principles collectively form a framework for assessing and respecting an individual’s mental capacity while ensuring their well-being and rights are upheld.

What individuals are typically responsible for determining whether someone possesses mental capacity?

Those who are directly involved in a person’s care, such as a parent, caregiver, or support personnel, are usually the ones who determine that person’s mental capacity. This option stems from the fact that these people are in close communication with each other, have a thorough grasp of the individual, and are frequently there when decisions are being made.

Consulting with experts such as physicians, psychologists, or social workers is recommended for complex decisions when capacity is disputed or there is doubt around it. These professionals can offer information about a person’s suitability for a particular decision.

The person who is in charge of determining someone’s capacity must have a “reasonable belief” that the subject is incapable. They must ensure themselves of this incapacity by taking appropriate action. Those who are making the choice should be ready to explain the processes followed to determine ability, defend the decision as being in the person’s best interests, and show that the selected path is the least restrictive option available in the event that the decision is contested.