Book review: 1 October 2009

Mental Capacity Act 2005: Implications for people with ­learning disabilities

Elaine Hardie and Liz Brooks, BILD Publications ISBN 9781905218066

This new guide covers the topics its title might lead one to expect, and it includes a useful chapter on communication and case studies that set the Mental Capacity Act in a learning disabilities context, writes David Hewitt.

It is aimed at those who work with people with a learning disability, and at their family, carers or friends. They should, of course, have access to clear, practical guidance on the act, but one wonders whether this is in any way superior to what already exists.

The Office of the Public Guardian, for example, has published booklets for each of this book’s target groups, and they are available free. This raises a more general point: what is the value of books such as this when a clear – and legally binding – code of practice also exists?

What those books gain by their brevity they too often lose by it as well. For example, the BILD guide discusses advance decisions (which it wrongly suggests are a form of contract) but says nothing about how they might be withdrawn; and it fails to mention the important points: first that a patient must continue to be treated while the validity of his advance decision is determined; and second, that an advance decision may be revoked by something as intangible as its maker’s subsequent conduct.

David Hewitt is a partner at solicitors Weightmans LLP

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