competent patient

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A patient who has the mental capacity to consent to medical treatment. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 defines a competent patient as one who is able to take a decision for himself, i.e. who can understand and retain the information relevant to the decision, weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision, and communicate that decision (s 3(1). The distinction between a competent patient and an incompetent patient is crucial: whereas consent is required before treating the former, it is not required from the latter. The wishes of a competent patient must be respected and he is entitled to refuse any medical intervention, even life-saving treatment. The Mental Capacity Act specifies that a medical professional should presume that a patient is competent unless there is evidence to the contrary: a person is not to be treated as incompetent merely because he makes an unwise decision (Re C (Adult: Refusal of Treatment) [1994] 1 FLR 31; Re B (Adult: Refusal of Medical Treatment) [2002] EWHC 429 (Fam).

Subjects: Law.

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