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New study into decision-making capacity in patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals

JULY 01, 2008

After 10 years of fierce public, professional and parliamentary debate there is now a new mental health law in England and Wales:  the amended Mental Capacity Act (2005) and the amended Mental Health Act (1983). The two statutes now regulate psychiatric practice but each one is based on a different principle: mental capacity and risk.

In a major study of mental capacity in patients admitted to psychiatric hospital, entitled: Mental capacity to make decisions on treatment in people admitted to psychiatric hospitals: cross sectional study, Dr Gareth Owen and colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, have mapped out the proportions of people who lack capacity to make treatment decisions. Many people (40%) have capacity to make treatment decisions when they come into hospital but of the others who do not over a third are being treated outside of risk-based law. Their needs are now subject to mental capacity-based law and services are going to have to respond accordingly.

Health professionals now face a complex legal interface between mental capacity and risk in their decision-making. The new study, published in the British Medical Journal (1st July 2008) gives health professionals, lawyers, and health care planners an important point of orientation around mental capacity. Read the full article:  .

The authors are:  Dr Gareth Owen, Professor Matthew Hotopf, Professor Genevra Richardson (KCL school of law),Professor Anthony David, Professor George Szmukler. 
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