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National charities throw support behind Mental Capacity Bill

Issue date: 9 December 2004

A coalition of some of the UK's leading charities have thrown further support behind the Mental Capacity Bill ahead of a crucial vote in parliament (report stage for the Bill is 14 December 2004).

The Making Decisions Alliance, which includes the Alzheimer's Society, Age Concern, Mencap and the National Autistic Society as members, has labelled fears that the Bill will legalise euthanasia as 'misplaced and misguided'. The MDA has urged MPs to vote for the Bill arguing that it will not change the current law on euthanasia and will actually provide a series of better safeguards when decisions are made for people who lack capacity, including:

  • An individual will be allowed to appoint a person of their choice to make decisions on their behalf in the event of future incapacity;
  • An individual's family / carers must be consulted prior to decisions regarding treatment; and
  • A presumption for the preservation of life will be mandatory if there is any doubt about whether an advance refusal of treatment, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, should be enforced.

Richard Kramer, co-chair of the MDA, and Director of Policy for Turning Point said, "We need to set straight the misunderstandings about this Bill. Charities within the MDA are working together to fight for a Bill, which will give people who lack capacity because of illness, injury or disability, the rights they deserve."

To further strengthen the Bill, the MDA believes that more emphasis needs to be given to the role played by advocates and is calling for advocacy to be available for everyone who lacks capacity. Many friends and families do not have expert knowledge of the NHS or Social Services and advocacy is crucial in providing support in these situations as well to safeguard against professionals imposing their views.

Toby Williamson, co-chair of the MDA, and Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation said, "Independent advocates must be given more of a central role in representing those people affected by the Bill. Advocacy is vital to ensuring that people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives."

The MDA is also calling for advance statements to be included in the Bill whereby people will be able to make advance requests for the treatment they would prefer should they lack capacity. Not only will this give people more safeguards over the treatment they receive but it would also provide better guidance for doctors and other professionals who are looking after them.

The Mental Capacity Bill potentially provides a long overdue and much-needed, legal framework to support the 2 million people in England and Wales who, because of illness, injury or disability, experience difficulties in making decisions.


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The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on9 December 2004.

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