Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 1st February 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Shadow Minister, Family, Shadow Minister, Health 3:07 pm, 1st February 2005

We now come to an issue which has been mentioned to me by more than one member of the medical profession. This amendment, which is, I hope, very simple and self-explanatory, sets out that concern. I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic to it.

Advance decisions will sometimes present doctors with a very difficult situation because implementing the decision would involve going completely against what they see as clinically necessary for the patient's welfare and best interests. Yet, if the decision is legally binding by being both valid and applicable in accordance with the Bill, there will be nothing that they can do about it.

We need to give the medical profession the legal certainty in the Bill that, where a doctor in charge of a mentally incapacitated patient has a real ethical or conscientious objection to implementing that person's advance decision, he does not have to do so. A subsection of this kind would parallel other conscience clauses in legislation, such as the Abortion Act. However, of course, there has to be a proviso. A doctor cannot simply walk away from his patient. If he decides that he needs to trigger the conscience clause, he must ensure that he passes responsibility for the patient, in a formal way, to another suitable medical practitioner. I beg to move.