Friday, July 31, 2009


Capacity to make a choice requires understanding, weighing of information, and choosing:

"the case law on capacity has for some time recognised that, to be able to make a decision, the person concerned must not only be able to understand the information relevant to making it but also be able to "weigh [that information] in the balance to arrive at [a] choice": see Re C (Adult: Refusal of Treatment) [1994] 1 WLR 290, 295, approved in Re MB (Medical Treatment) [1997] 2 FLR 426."

per Baroness Hale a para 24 of R v C [2009] UKHL 42 (30 July 2009). The choice must be autonomous (free) and must not be driven, for example by a compulsion, delusion, or phobia (25).

Inability to communicate a decision to refuse consent amounts to an inability to make a decision (29).

This was said in the context of the Sexual Offences Act 2003[UK], s 30(1) and (2), but its core is no doubt of wider relevance. It could apply wherever a "decision" is required (avoiding the words "consent" or "refuse"), as in Crimes Act 1961[NZ], s 138.

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