Mental capacity in Northern Ireland
In 2007, The Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force in England and Wales. The Act does not apply in Northern Ireland, but many of the principles set out in the Act do, for example the principles for assessing a person’s capacity to make decisions.
The web pages in this section are about the ways people can plan ahead if they live in Northern Ireland. We have other information about planning ahead in England and Wales, and in Scotland.
The Mental Capacity Act aims to protect people who can’t make a decision for themselves. It means that a person can plan ahead for a time when they may not be able to make decisions themselves. It clarifies who can make decisions, in which situations, and how they should go about it.
The Act states that a person lacks capacity if they are unable to make a decision for themselves – in relation to a specific matter – because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain.
A person will lack capacity if they’re unable to do any one of the following:
- Understand the information relevant to the decision.
- Retain that information.
- Use or weigh up that information as part of the process of making the decision.
- Communicate their decision (whether by talking, using sign language or any other means).
The British Medical Association and the General Medical Council provide guidance for doctors on assessing mental capacity.