People make unwise decisions all the time, so is it right for people with mental disabilities that could affect their decision-making capacity to be expected to make ‘wiser’ or ‘better’ decisions than anyone else?
One of the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 is that a person should not be treated as lacking capacity merely because he or she makes a decision that others would consider to be unwise. Different people will make different decisions as they give greater weight to some factors than others do and everyone will have their own values and preferences. What some people will see as an unwise decision, others will see as a sensible one. What we really need to question is whether the person has thought through the actual decision and the outcome and whether they have weighed up the risks involved.
I was approached by a client who was considered not to have sufficient mental capacity to manage his own finances. I was appointed as his Deputy through the Court of Protection to manage his property and financial affairs. In fact the client was very high functioning and could argue quite logically with me on certain points – more so than some clients who were believed to have the mental capacity to make financial decisions.
My client had been involved in a car accident and had received an award for compensation. Being a young man in his 20’s, he was keen to set up his own business and he wanted to set up a business selling vodka tasting to various nightclubs. Initially I was quite unsure about this and really didn’t want him to “waste” £5,000 of his compensation claim. However, I wanted him to be involved in the decision-making process and work out for himself that this would be a poor decision. I asked him to go away and put forward a business proposal and check whether he could get any additional funding from the bank. To my surprise he came back with a coherent business proposal and I agreed to fund the initial set up.
I knew the business would not be hugely successful but my client would have a lot of fun setting it up and running it and it would also give him something tangible to focus all his energy on. It was going to be a learning process for him but eventually the business folded.
The spending of £5,000 on this business may have been seen by some as an unwise decision but in fact the client was clearly able to see the steps involved in setting up the business and knew the risk that he was taking but for him he really enjoyed the challenge of doing this. So, as a Deputy, I may not agree with every decision a client makes but as long as I am happy that they have thought this through carefully and considered the consequences then the decision can stand. What matters is their ability to make that decision and not the outcome.