The ability to make decisions and take actions that influence our life is critically important and ranges from simple everyday choices about what to have for breakfast, to far-reaching decisions about health care, personal or financial matters. When our ability to make our own decisions is impaired, whether due to dementia, learning or intellectual disability, mental illness or brain injury, that might mean we are not able to make decisions for ourselves. So, there is a need for clear assessment processes to help decide whether someone has the capacity to make their own decisions, who should make decisions on their behalf, and on what basis such decisions should be made. The guidance in this book has been written to serve the needs of doctors, lawyers, health professionals, families and whanau. It was written by experts from a range of disciplines including law, medicine and ethics, and is based on the Toolkit for Assessing Capacity. It combines an explanation of the law, case studies and practical guidance for health and legal professionals about capacity, how it is assessed, and what supporting people with impaired capacity means in practice.
Alison Douglass is a Dunedin barrister specialising in health and disability law, and regularly appears as court-appointed lawyer for people with impaired capacity. She is an honorary senior lecturer at Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, and the 2014 recipient of the New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellowship.
Dr Greg Young is a consultant psychiatrist at Capital Coast DHB. He is a clinical senior lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine and an associate of the Bioethics Centre, University of Otago.
Professor John McMillan is an Ethicist at the Bioethics Centre, University of Otago. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics and was a member of the working party that wrote the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report Dementia: Ethical Issues.