The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is a law that protects and supports people who do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves. It also provides guidance to support people who need to make decisions on behalf of someone else.
The Act covers important decisions relating to an individual's property, financial affairs, health and social care. It also applies to everyday decisions, such as personal care, what to wear and what to eat. It also allows us to plan ahead for a time when we are unable to make these decisions for ourself.
We all have problems making decisions from time to time, but mental capacity is about more than that. It is there for situations where someone is unable to make a decision because of the way their brain works. This could be due to illness, brain injury, learning disability, mental health problems, or the effects of drugs or alcohol.
People who cannot make a decision for themselves, are said to 'lack capacity'. In law, a person is said to lack capacity if they cannot do one or more of the following things:
Understand the information given to them
Retain that information long enough to be able to make a decision
Weigh up the information available to make a decision
Communicate their decision.
Someone may have capacity to make some decisions and not others. If they do lack mental capacity to make a particular decision, then it must be made in their 'best interests', taking into account the person's wishes, feelings, beliefs and values.