The reach of mental capacity law is immense – any of us at any time could find ourselves incapable of taking decisions about our health, our welfare, or our finances. But the balance such law seeks to strike between protection and autonomy is precarious. The ‘hinterland’ of legislation such as the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – its philosophical, ethical and moral challenges – are all too often overlooked by those seeking to apply it in the courts or on the ground in clinical or social work practice. And we are still learning how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will impact upon our approach to these questions (but for some thoughts from nearly ten years in, see here).
This site is borne out of a desire to promote better, clearer thinking amongst lawyers, policy-makers and professionals as to mental capacity law and practice. It is created by Alex Ruck Keene, a practising barrister, writer and educator specialising in mental capacity law. Whilst it comes at the issues it raises from a legal perspective, it is fuelled by a desire to bring together insights and expertise from the worlds of legal practice, academia, clinical research, social work practice, third sector advocacy, and the wider policy community.
The site does not pretend or promise to be a one-stop shop: these exist elsewhere. Nor does (or can) it offer legal advice. But it aims to start discussions and provoke questions about received wisdom.
To this end, it has two main parts.
First, I will post comments here on recent cases and other developments of relevance to mental capacity law both in England and Wales and further afield (recent posts are highlighted on the side of this page, and older ones can be found here). For the most part (and if they meet with the approval of my fellow editors) these comments will make their way in more polished form into the 39 Essex Chambers Mental Capacity Law Report; they will sometimes present further thoughts on my part on the topic after the Report has been sent out; they will sometimes represent intellectual frolics of my own. Please question, criticise, comment and/or otherwise respond to these posts – I moderate all replies so that hopefully the resulting discussions will generate more heat than light.
Second, you will find here papers and articles that I have published on a wide range of topics related to mental capacity, and a collection of (free) resources and blogs that I find particularly useful in thinking more deeply about why we do what we do in the field.
I cannot emphasise enough that I welcome views, comments and questions from all those concerned with mental capacity law and policy, no matter their background or perspective. I hope that the discussions we can start on this site be translated into collaborations between practitioners of all hues.
Please join the conversation.