Assessing capacity

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Assessing capacity involves five key principles:

1. a presumption of capacity

2. individuals being supported to make their own decisions

3. unwise decisions

4. best interests

5. less restrictive option.

It is useful to consider the principles chronologically: principles 1 to 3 will support the process before, or at the point of, determining whether someone lacks capacity. Once you’ve decided that capacity is lacking, use principles 4 and 5 to support the decision-making process. 

Can the person:

  • understand the information relevant to the decision?
  • retain the information (long enough to make an effective decision)?
  • use or weigh up that information as part of the process of making the decision?
  • communicate their decision?

We can help this process by asking the following:

  • is all the relevant information available?
  • could the information be presented in a way that is easier to understand?
  • are there other times when this would be better considered?
  • can anyone else help (relative, friend, advocate)?


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