The long awaited Mental Incapacity Bill, now repackaged as the Mental Capacity Bill, was finally published on 18 June, and is to be accompanied by a Code of Practice that is still being developed.
It seeks to provide for decision-making on behalf of people with mental incapacity and is the culmination of a long consultative process that began in the early 1990s with the government discussion documents Who decides? and Making Decisions. CMF was actively involved in the early consultation process.
The Bill, which is now due for debate in both Houses of Parliament introduces many necessary measures but there remain very real concerns about its definitions of 'best interests' and abuse of its provisions for legally binding advance directives, proxy decision making, and research involving mentally incapacitated people.
The prime purpose of this law must be to protect vulnerable people, but sloppy or deliberately ambiguous wording in the wrong hands, could be a tool for inappropriate withdrawal of food and fluids from patients with no capacity to protect themselves. The vociferous support for the bill from pro-euthanasia groups suggests that they see it as the camel's nose for further slackening of laws that stop doctors actively taking life.
We must pray for wisdom for those involved in the debate.