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Local Authorities Protecting mentally incapacitated adults

Guardianship and Declaratory Relief

1 July 1999

Local Authorities: Protecting mentally incapacitated

Guardianship and Declaratory Relief

The law presumes that all adults have decision-making capacity and protects their right to self-determination. A competent adult has the right to consent or refuse medical treatment and to make other personal care decisions which might or might not be in their best interest. In stark contrast, where a person lacks this capacity, more often than not, decisions on medical treatment, personal care, contact with friends or where to live, are taken by a range of carers - doctors, nurses, relatives, friends or social workers. However, under English law, there is no statutory or common law power which authorises the delegation of such decisions to professional or non-professional carers. No matter how well-intentioned carers (or relatives) may be, they have no legal authority to substitute their decisions for those of the incompetent adult.

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