Assessing capacity in the context of testamentary, enduring power of attorney, and advance care directive documents in Australia

Purser, Kelly (2014) Assessing capacity in the context of testamentary, enduring power of attorney, and advance care directive documents in Australia. In World Congress on Adult Guardianship, 28 - 30 May 2014, Washington DC. (Unpublished)


Balancing the competing interests of autonomy and protection of individuals is an escalating challenge confronting an ageing Australian population. Legal and medical professionals are increasingly being asked to determine whether individuals are legally capable to make their own testamentary, financial and/or personal/health care decisions. Diseases such as dementia impact upon cognition which necessitates collaboration between the legal and medical professions to satisfactorily assess the effect of such mentally disabling conditions upon legal competency. Terminological and methodological differences exist between the two professions when assessing capacity in this context which subsequently create miscommunication and misunderstanding. Consequently, it is not necessarily a simple solution for a legal professional to seek the opinion of a medical practitioner. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that no consistent and transparent capacity assessment paradigm currently exists in Australia. Assessments are instead being undertaken on an ad hoc basis dependent upon the skill set of the legal and/or medical professionals involved. A qualitative study seeking the views of legal and medical professionals who practise in this area has been conducted. This incorporated a review of the relevant literature and surveys which informed the semi-structured interviews conducted with 10 legal and 20 medical practitioners. Practitioners were asked whether there is a standard approach to assessment and whether national guidelines would assist. The general consensus was that uniform guidelines would be advantageous. The research also canvassed practitioner views as to the state of the relationship between the professions when assessing capacity. Three promising practices have emerged from this research: first, is the need for the development of national guidelines and supporting principles to satisfactorily assess capacity; second, is the possibility of strengthening the relationship between legal and medical professionals to assist in the satisfactory assessment of legal capacity; and third, the need for increased community education.

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ID Code: 72307
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Capacity Assessment, Lawyers and Dcotors, Future Planning, Substitute Decision Making, Testamentary Capacity
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Please consult the author
Deposited On: 02 Jun 2014 22:19
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2014 22:19

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