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The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Evaluation of the Capacity to Appoint a Healthcare Proxy

ABSTRACT: The appointment of a healthcare proxy is the most common way through which patients appoint a surrogate decision maker in anticipation of a future time in which they may lack the ability to make medical decisions themselves. In some situations, when a patient has not previously appointed a surrogate decision maker through an advance directive, the healthcare team may ask whether the patient, although lacking the capacity to make a healthcare decision, might still have the capacity to appoint a healthcare proxy. In this article the authors summarize the existing, albeit limited, legal and empirical basis for this capacity and propose a model for assessing capacity to appoint a healthcare proxy that incorporates clinical factors in the context of the risks and benefits specific to surrogate appointment under the law. In particular, it is important to weigh patients’ understanding and choice within the context of the risks and benefits of the medical and interpersonal factors. Questions to guide capacity assessment are provided for clinical use and refinement through future research.

Source: The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 21:4, April 2013, pp. 326-336.By Jennifer Moye, Ph.D., Charles P. Sabatino, J.D., Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, M.D., J.D.

[Read the full paper]