This is a response to Professor Fennell's paper on the recent influence and impact of the best interests test on the treatment of patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) for mental disorder. I discuss two points of general ethical significance raised by Professor Fennell. Firstly, I consider his argument on the breadth of the best interests test, incorporating as it does factors considerably wider than those of medical justifications and the risk of harm. Secondly, I (...) discuss his contention that the apparent permeability of the line between the interests of the patient and the interests of society is something to be concerned about in itself. Since the overarching theme of the paper is the proper place of social and cultural values, my reponse considers the implications of Fennell's arguments in the light of Charlotte Brontë's novel ‘Jane Eyre’, which, through the character of Bertha Mason (the infamous ‘mad woman in the attic’) provides a provocative study of the relationship between mental disorder and society. (shrink)
This essay argues that the Chinese Mental Health Act of 2013 is overly individualistic and fails to give proper moral weight to the role of Chinese families in directing the process of decision-making for hospitalizing and treating the mentally ill patients. We present three types of reactions within the medical community to the Act, each illustrated with a case and discussion. In the first two types of cases, we argue that these reactions are problematic either because they comply with (...) the law but undermine the patient’s interests by refusing the family’s request to have the patient hospitalized, or violate the law by hospitalizing patients in response to the real concerns of their families. In the third type of situation, psychiatrists inappropriately encourage families to produce evidence of the patient’s behavior that is harmful to self or others in order legally to commit the patient. Each of these problems, we conclude, should be tackled by supplementing Article 30 of the Act with the stipulation that a psychiatrist may authorize the involuntary hospitalization of a patient, who is not at risk of causing physical harm to self or others, with the consent of all major family members. Drawing on the deeply culturally embedded moral traditions of Confucian medical familism, this proposal would facilitate the proper treatment of a significant number of Chinese mentally ill patients under the care of their families. (shrink)
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force in England and Wales in 2007. Its primary purpose is to provide “a statutory framework to empower and protect people who may lack capacity to make some decisions for themselves.” Examples of such people are those with dementia, learning disabilities, mental health problems, and so on. The Act also gives those who currently have capacity a legal framework within which they can make arrangements for a time when they may come (...) to lack it. Toward this end, it allows for them to make advance decisions or to appoint proxy decision makers with lasting powers of attorney. (shrink)
This paper considers concerns that social care research may be stifled by health-focused ethical scrutiny under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the requirement for an ?appropriate body? to determine ethical approval for research involving people who are deemed to lack capacity under the Act to make decisions concerning their participation and consent in research. The current study comprised an online survey of current practice in university research ethics committees (URECs), and explored through semi-structured interviews the views of social (...) researchers engaged in or exploring work concerning people who may, under the Act, lack the capacity to make decisions to consent to participate in a research programme. The paper concludes that there was a lack of overt knowledge of and reference to the implications of the Act for research and some concerns that a restrictive focus on health-related scrutiny might prevent social care research from taking place. There was also a degree of creativity shown by social care researchers in responding to changing demands and a wish to assist people in making decisions to participate where possible. (shrink)
In 2014 the Essex Autonomy Project undertook a six month project, funded by the AHRC, to provide technical advice to the UK Ministry of Justice on the question of whether the Mental Capacity Act is compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Over the course of the project, the EAP research team organised a series of public policy roundtables, hosted by the Ministry of Justice, and which brought together leading experts to discuss and (...) debate the issues. A one-day public conference was held at the Institute for Government in July. In September 2014, the EAP research team submitted its findings to the Ministry of Justice. (shrink)
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) were recently introduced into the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) via an amendment to mental health legislation in England and Wales. As Shah (2011) discusses, the rationale behind creating these protocols was to close what is commonly referred to as the ‘Bournewood gap’; a legislative loophole that allowed a severely autistic man (H.L.) who did not initially dissent to admission to be detained in a hospital and deprived of his liberty in his ‘best (...) interests’ as judged by his clinical team. Before the implementation of the DOLS, patients who lacked the capacity to consent to admission or treatment but who were nonetheless compliant could be admitted informally and treated as .. (shrink)
The Mental Capacity Act (2005) is an impressive piece of legislation that deserves serious ethical attention, but much of the commentary on the Act has focussed on its legal and practical implications rather than the underlying ethical concepts. This paper examines the approach that the Act takes to best interests. The Act does not provide an account of the underlying concept of best interests. Instead it lists factors that must be considered in determining best interests, and the Code of (...) Practice to the Act states that this list is incomplete. This paper argues that this general approach is correct, contrary to some accounts of best interests. The checklist includes items that are unhelpful. Furthermore, neither the Act nor its Code of Practice provides sufficient guidance to carers faced with difficult decisions concerning best interests. This paper suggests ways in which the checklist can be developed and discusses cases that could be used in an updated Code of Practice. (shrink)
The Mental Capacity Act received Royal Assent on 7 April 2005, and it will be implemented in 2007. The Act defines when someone lacks capacity and it supports people with limited decision-making ability to make as many decisions as possible for themselves. The Act lays down rules for substitute decision making. Someone taking decisions on behalf of the person lacking capacity must act in the best interests of the person concerned and choose the options least restrictive of his or (...) her rights and freedoms. Decision making will be allowed without any formal procedure unless specific provisions apply, such as a written advance decision, lasting powers of attorney or a decision by the court of protection. (shrink)
Since 1998, several attempts have been made to reform the existing mental health legislation - the Mental Health Act 1983. However, all efforts thus far have been resoundingly rejected by mental health charities, psychiatrists and related professions. Following the Government's decision to abandon the draft Mental Health Bill in March 2006, plans to introduce new legislation designed to amend the existing 1983 Act have been published. This shorter bill was introduced before Parliament in November 2006. The (...) amendments focused on six key policy areas including supervised community treatment, the nearest relative, the definition of mental disorder and detention criteria. It is also intended that the Mental Capacity Act 2005 will be amended to bridge the present 'Bournewood' gap. (shrink)
The law of England and Wales provides that an adult with capacity has the right to refuse medical treatment both contemporaneously and in an advance refusal. Legislation separates general advance refusals of treatment from advance refusals of life-sustaining treatment. The law, outlined in ss.24 to 26 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, is stricter for creation of the latter. These sections brought with them a new age of interests by purporting to elevate individual autonomy as the primary concern. Beginning (...) with the classical tale of Odysseus and a general discussion of the value to be found in a law seeking to preserve individual autonomy, this thesis seeks to act as a critique of the current enactment in practice. The provisions are already under-used and under-applied; without change, they may never reach the stage where they are ethically and practically viable. It is argued that the advance refusals provisions are not taking full effect due to a combination of lacking moral grounding and general dismissal of key ethical dilemmas at the forefront of application. Building on this, the moral basis for this thesis is found in Alan Gewirth’s Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC) which links directly with the general application of human rights. The PGC becomes a compass for determining how best to treat persons when addressing the three most prominent challenges faced by the 2005 Act which are: the debate between the conferred right of autonomy versus the right to life; the issue of personhood; and, the personal identity problem. Ultimately, unless framework provisions are strengthened, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 is rethought in light of prominent ethical, legal and social considerations, the constraints of the Act on paper will continue to suppress the important underlying values promulgating individual autonomy. (shrink)
The mental capacity Act 2005 (MCA; Department of Constitutional Affairs 2005) was partially implemented on April 1, 2007, and fully implemented on October 1, 2007, in England and Wales. The MCA provides a statutory framework for people who lack decision-making capacity (DMC) or who have capacity and want to plan for the future when they may lack DMC. Health care and social care providers need to be familiar with the MCA and the associated legal structures and processes. The MCA (...) is supported by a Code of Practice (Department of Constitutional Affairs 2007), which was developed after extensive consultation and includes case examples. Those involved in the assessment of DMC and the application of the MCA should .. (shrink)
This article considers the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in respect of advance decisions. It considers the new statutory regulation of advance directives (termed 'advance decisions' in the Act) and the formalities necessary to effect an advance decision purporting to refuse life-sustaining treatment. The validity and applicability of advance decisions is discussed with analogy to case law and the clinician's reasonable belief in following an advance decision is considered. The article assesses the new personal welfare Lasting Powers (...) of Attorney, the situation where an attorney purports to refuse life-sustaining treatment on behalf of the donor, and the contrast between best interests and substituted judgment. (shrink)
Simonet, Emanuel Nicolas Cortes Victoria's new Mental Health Act 2014 came into operation on 1st July 2014. Corresponding with international standards, the new Act aims to strengthen the human rights of persons with mental illness. This is supported by the inclusion of a recovery framework which promotes a collaborative treatment approach, procedures that reduce the duration of compulsory treatment, as well as better mental health service oversight and safeguards. This article analyses and highlights these reforms from a (...) human rights perspective. (shrink)
When seen in the historical context of psychiatry's relatively recent discovery of violence and risk, along with society's adoption of more risk-averse attitudes, the Mental Health Act 2007 in England and Wales is an ethical and proportionate measure.
The hospital's clinical ethics committee sought to gauge health-care professionals’ level of knowledge and usage of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 within the hospital trust. The hospital's personnel were asked to complete a 10 part questionnaire relating to the basic contents of the Act. Four hundred questionnaires were distributed and 249 (62%) were returned completed and valid for analysis. A ‘pass-mark’ of 70% (7/10) was assumed; the results showed that 48% of respondents scored ≤50% (≤5/10), 74% of respondents scored (...) <70% (<7/10) and only 24% of respondents scored ≥70% (≥7/10). It was concluded that the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was not being effectively implemented within the Trust. Measures to increase the awareness and usage of the Act have subsequently been instigated. We believe that these measures will improve the awareness and knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 within the hospital Trust lead to its better utilization. (shrink)
The Mental Capacity Act, which received Royal Assent in April 2005, will come into force in April 2007. The Act puts into statute the legality of interventions in relation to adults who lack capacity to make decisions on their own behalf. The aim of this paper is to outline the main features of the legislation and its impact on those health care professionals who provide care and treatment for incapacitated adults. The paper sets out the underlying ethical principles that (...) govern interventions under the Act's powers and briefly explores the legal definition of incapacity and the process by which capacity is assessed. It looks at the governing notion of 'best interests' and at the legal indemnity provided by the Act for interventions that are in the best interests of an incapacitated adult. It contains sections on the Act's main innovations, including research involving incapacitated adults, lasting powers of attorney and the new Court of Protection. It also provides information on advance decisions to refuse treatment. (shrink)
This article sets out a scenario highlighting some of the issues to be faced by NHS hospitals when dealing with patients who may require treatment under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The article sets out matters to consider when dealing with patients in A&E, assessments of best interests, emergency treatment, lasting powers of attorney and transferring patients to nursing homes. All of these matters come under the remit of the Act.
The Mental Capacity Act is an impressive piece of legislation that deserves serious ethical attention, but much of the commentary on the Act has focussed on its legal and practical implications rather than the underlying ethical concepts. This paper examines the approach that the Act takes to best interests. The Act does not provide an account of the underlying concept of best interests. Instead it lists factors that must be considered in determining best interests, and the Code of Practice (...) to the Act states that this list is incomplete. This paper argues that this general approach is correct, contrary to some accounts of best interests. The checklist includes items that are unhelpful. Furthermore, neither the Act nor its Code of Practice provides sufficient guidance to carers faced with difficult decisions concerning best interests. This paper suggests ways in which the checklist can be developed and discusses cases that could be used in an updated Code of Practice. (shrink)
If imagination is guided by the same principles as rational thoughts, then we ought not to stop at the way people make inferences to get insights about the workings of imagination; we ought to consider as well the way they make rational choices. This broader approach accounts for the puzzling effect of reasons to act on the mutability of actions.
This book is a critical and analytical survey of the major attempts, in modern philosophy, to deal with the phenomenon of intentionality—those of Descartes, Brentano, Meinong, Husserl, Frege, Russell, Bergmann, Chisholm, and Sellars. By coordinating the semantical approaches to the phenomenon, Dr. Aquila undertakes to provide a basis for dialogue among philosophers of different persuasions. "Intentionality" has become, since Franz Brentano revived its original medieval use, the standard term describing the mind's apparently paradoxical capacity to relate itself to objects existing (...) in the world. One approach to the phenomenon emphasizes the mental act. The author argues that the most adequate account involves elements of both approaches. Contemporary treatments tend to formulate problems of intentionality primarily in terms of logic and semantics rather than those of metaphysics and phenomenology. Dr. Aquila's effort to coordinate these approaches will make his book useful to students both of analytical philosophy of mind and also of phenomenology. (shrink)
A prominent but poorly understood domain of human agency is mental action, i.e., thecapacity for reaching specific desirable mental statesthrough an appropriate monitoring of one's own mentalprocesses. The present paper aims to define mentalacts, and to defend their explanatory role againsttwo objections. One is Gilbert Ryle's contention thatpostulating mental acts leads to an infinite regress.The other is a different although related difficulty,here called the access puzzle: How can the mindalready know how to act in order to reach (...) somepredefined result? A crucial element in the solutionof these puzzles consists in making explicit thecontingency between mental acts and mentaloperations, parallel to the contingency betweenphysical acts and bodily movements. The paper finallydiscusses the kind of reflexivity at stake in mentalacts; it is shown that the capacity to refer tooneself is not a necessary condition of the successfulexecution of mental acts. (shrink)
I examine Galen Strawson's recent work on mental action in his paper, 'Mental Ballistics or The Involuntariness of Spontaneity'. I argue that his account of mental action is too restrictive. I offer a means of testing tokens of mental activity types to determine if they are actional. The upshot is that a good deal more mental activity than Strawson admits is actional.