The Mental Capacity Act 2005: an opportune time to reflect – OUP Blog

‘More than a decade has passed since the Mental Capacity Act (‘MCA’) received royal assent. Described as a ‘visionary piece of legislation’, the MCA was a significant landmark on the legal landscape. It represented a triumph of autonomy by recognising that, as far as possible, people should play an active role in decisions about their welfare. At the core of the MCA is the fundamental principle that a person must be assumed to have decision making capacity unless it is established that he lacks it. The law therefore assumes that everyone has the ability to act and take decisions in accordance with their own interests, and affords primacy to individual priorities over paternalistic imperatives. Where a person lacks capacity – whether for reasons of learning disability, dementia, brain injury, or some other impairment of or disturbance in the functioning of the mind or brain – the MCA permits decision-makers to act on behalf of the person in accordance with his ‘best interests’. This means that, amongst other things, decision-makers must take into account the person’s past and present wishes and feelings, his beliefs and values, and any other factors that the person would be likely to consider, in order to act in a way which would likely give expression to the person’s autonomy. In this way, the MCA sought to empower people to make decisions for themselves, protect the vulnerable from the excesses of paternalism, and engineer a cultural shift in attitudes to mental impairment and incapacity.’

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OUP Blog, 17th January 2017