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Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Social Services, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities 8:30 pm, 1st February 2005

In moving Amendment No. 123 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 124. I do not want to pre-empt amendments we shall reach in a short while, but for the purpose of these amendments I am acting as advocate for the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, given that she cannot be here. I assure the Committee that I am independent and not in the pay of the noble Baroness.

In the context of research, the purpose of these two amendments is to seek clarification of the meaning of subsection (2). Throughout our debate on the clauses covering research, while noble Lords have approached the matter from different starting points, they all have the same intent; that of trying to establish that what is provided for in the Bill guarantees that a person who lacks capacity and is involved in some form of research is not subject to exploitation, degrading treatment and so forth. Our differences are really ones of operation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is well known to noble Lords for her wide practical experience of these issues. The aim of her amendments is simple; to establish, for example, that a clinician can hold someone's arm when taking blood. Otherwise, in the attempt to take blood people may pull in the wrong direction or become confused. The result is that they may suffer damage from the needle.

The noble Baroness has also referred on many occasions to the physical side effects of some forms of injury. In particular, she has said that when someone sustains a severe head injury, they may make spinal reflexes which suggest that they are endeavouring to pull away from painful stimuli. In fact, all they are doing is responding physically to the stimulus rather than withdrawing consent. In her briefing to me, the noble Baroness also explained the operation of the Glasgow Coma Score levels, which are detailed measures of physical responses to stimuli.

I suspect that there is something of a crossover here between research procedures and some of the signs one might look for when seeking to establish communication with those who do not have the capacity to speak. I realise that we are straying into detailed operational territory, but given the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, it would be helpful if this subsection were clarified further. I beg to move.