July 27, 2016

Mental Capacity Laws Due Update: NZ Study Finds

A new study suggests that people with impaired decision-making capacity need better legal protection to ensure their confinement in care arrangements.

Researcher Alison Douglass says urgent review is needed of New Zealand’s law, protecting and promoting the rights of people with impaired ability to make their own life decisions. 

A press release from the New Zealand Law Foundation explains that Alison's research, Mental Capacity – Updating New Zealand’s Law and Practice, has been published along with a practical clinical and legal “toolkit” for health practitioners on assessing capacity, co-authored with a psychiatrist and ethicist. 

Comparative analysis of the English Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its Code of Practice is included along with interviews with key figures involved in mental capacity law in the UK, including the judiciary in the specialised Court of Protection.

She is calling for a comprehensive update of New Zealand’s adult guardianship law, the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 (PPPR Act), to bring it in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Alison says the law is needlessly complex and unclear about two essential concepts. The first iscapacity, the ‘bright legal line’ determining whether intervention is permitted in people’s lives. 

The second concept is best interests, the standard for making decisions about a person who is unable to do so for themselves.

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UK Mental Capacity Act 2005