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New Bill is not about Euthanasia - MPs urged to focus on the key issues

Issue date: 11 October 2004

A coalition of almost 40 charities urged MPs not to get distracted by misplaced fears about the Mental Capacity Bill (which receives its second reading in parliament today). The Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) is concerned that debate about euthanasia may undermine the Bill, which will give millions of disabled people and older people more control over their day-to-day lives and greater protection against abuse.

This Bill will give people who have difficulty making or communicating decisions - such as those with a learning disability, dementia or mental ill health - more rights over where they live, how they spend their money and other issues which we all take for granted. It has the potential to transform the lives of 2 million people and to be as far reaching as recent disability discrimination laws.

There is nothing in the Bill which will change the law on euthanasia which remains illegal. But Richard Kramer, co chair of the MDA said:

"With recent high profile debates about euthanasia and misplaced fears over some of the effects of the Bill, there is a real danger that the vital, concrete benefits that it brings are overshadowed."

"The Mental Capacity Bill will set out people's right to make their own decisions and introduces a presumption that people have the capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise. The MDA believes this is vital for the millions of people who are currently judged incapable of making decisions. It will also give those caring for people more confidence in their rights to be consulted on the treatment and care that they receive."

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Case Study - Jason

Jason has a learning disability and sometimes finds it hard to make or communicate decisions - using a form of sign language to talk to family and staff at the home where he lives. Under current law he could be deemed incapable of making decisions at all about where he lives or the medical treatment he receives.

Under the Mental Capacity Bill Jason will be assumed to have the capacity to make decisions for himself. He would be able to make decisions about what to eat, what clothes to wear, how to decorate his room immediately. And he would be support to make more complicated decisions such as where he wants to live or which school to attend.

Richard Kramer added "For people like Jason this is the difference between the frustration of having things done to them with little or no control and playing a full, active role in deciding how to live their lives"

ENDS

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The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on7 December 2004.

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This website is run on behalf of the Making Decisions Alliance by the Mental Health Foundation / Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 9th Floor, Sea Containers House, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9QB. Tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1100. Press office tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1281. Email: mhf@mhf.org.uk Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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