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Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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1.2 How do we make decisions?

It is easy to take our ability to make a decision for granted, but a number of factors underlie it: information, confidence, experience and the knowledge of likely consequences of different courses of action.

In the video below, a man with learning disabilities discusses how he makes decisions about money with a social worker. Their discussion illustrates how someone in these circumstances can be supported to manage their own money.

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Interview with a social worker: making decisions about money
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Box 1 lists some of the factors that enable someone to make decisions for themselves. Support should be provided in all these areas to ensure that all possible steps are taken to enable the person to make decisions for themselves.

Box 1 Factors that enable decision making

  • Impartial advice: no bad influences or inappropriate pressure
  • Information from trusted sources
  • Ability to realistically appraise the options available
  • An understanding of the consequences
  • An understanding of the context
  • Appraisal of prior decision making by self and others
  • Previous experience of good and successful decision making
  • The opportunity to put a decision into action.

A person should be given all the help they can, in an encouraging environment, to make decisions for themselves before they are judged as being unable to do so. But what if they make a decision that seems eccentric or even unwise? Should someone else make the decision for them?