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What is the Mental Capacity Act?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides a legal framework to empower and protect vulnerable people who are not able to make their own decisions.

It makes it clear who can take decisions, in which situations and how they should go about this. It enables people to plan ahead for a time when they themselves may lose mental capacity.

If someone lacks capacity, then the act allows people to lawfully provide care and treatment as long as it is in their best interests.

The act has 5 key principles:

  1. A presumption of capacity - every adult has the right to make his or her own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise.
  2. The right for individuals to be supported to make their own decisions - people must be given all appropriate help before anyone concludes that they cannot make their own decisions.
  3. That individuals must retain the right to make what might be seen as eccentric or unwise decisions.
  4. Best Interests - anything done for or on behalf of people without capacity must be in their best interests.
  5. Least restrictive intervention – before a decision is made on someone’s behalf, consideration has to be made on how the outcome could be achieved in an alternative way which does not interfere with their basic rights and freedom.
Last updated: 06/03/2023