Health practitioners need a patient’s consent before providing medical treatment. Adults are presumed to have decision-making capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary.
Under the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act, a person has decision-making capacity if they are able to:
- understand the information relevant to the decision and the effect of the decision
- retain that information to the extent necessary to make that decision
- use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision
- communicate the decision and the person’s views and needs as to the decision in some way, including by speech, gestures or other means.
A person has decision-making capacity if they can make the decision with practicable and appropriate support.
Capacity is decision-specific. A person may have capacity for some decisions but not others.
It is the responsibility of the health practitioner to determine capacity for a specific decision.
You should not assume a person lacks decision-making capacity
on the basis of their appearance
because they are making a decision that others may consider unwise.
When a patient is likely to recover decision-making capacity
If the patient is likely to recover decision-making capacity within a reasonable time, you should wait for them to be able to make the decision - unless a further delay would result in a significant deterioration of their condition.