More to life than euthanasia.

As the Mental Capacity Bill goes through parliament it is essential
that the debate does not focus so heavily on euthanasia that all
else is neglected. By concentrating on whether the bill will make
euthanasia easier, MPs could overlook the important proposals
revolutionising decision-making for vulnerable people.

This bill is the first to make the presumption that people have the
capacity to make decisions for themselves, unless it can be shown
otherwise. People will not be able to presume on others’ behalf or
fail to consult them. No longer will people be able to get away
with thinking “Does it matter what Mrs Smith has for breakfast? I
don’t suppose she can tell the difference anyway.”

People will have a greater duty to consult first and foremost with
the individual, but also with their family and carers before
deciding how to proceed. Crucially, the bill will protect those
unable to make decisions on certain matters, ensuring that family
and paid carers act in the person’s best interests and providing
additional safeguards to stop people intentionally ignoring,
abusing or exploiting those who lack capacity.

This is why the Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) – a coalition of 39
charities – is supporting the bill. That’s not to say that the bill
is perfect – without a doubt there are still some areas that need

First, advocates must be available to support people if the bill is
to have teeth. Although the bill currently includes “independent
consultees”, these are not the same as advocates, who could play a
much greater role in supporting people in all aspects of their

Second, the Bournewood case highlighted the need for greater
protection for those who lack capacity. As the bill stands it will
not close the “Bournewood gap” and the MDA will be working with
government to ensure the final legislation will not allow people to
be detained simply because they are incapable of expressing
disapproval of treatment. The bill must provide a means for people
to challenge their care.

These issues need to be discussed and developed, not overshadowed
by misplaced fears about euthanasia. After 15 years we cannot
afford to waste the opportunity that this bill presents.

Toby Williamson is co-chair of the Making Decisions

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.