What is Capacity?

Capacity is the ability to make a decision for yourself. Your capacity to make a decision depends on when the decision needs to be made, and what the decision is.

You might lack capacity to make a decision on one day but be able to make that decision at a later date. For instance, this might be because you have dementia and your ability to remember information differs from one day to the next.

You might also have capacity to make some decisions but not others. For example, you might have capacity to decide what you want to eat each day, but not to make a decision about life-sustaining treatment.

You lack capacity to make a decision if:
  • You have an impairment or disturbance of the mind or brain. For example, because you are unconscious, have dementia, a mental health condition, a brain injury or a stroke
and because of that impairment, you cannot do one or more of these things:
  • Understand information relating to the decision
  • Remember that information for long enough to make the decision
  • Take that information into account when making the decision
  • Communicate the decision

The law says that people must be assumed to have capacity unless it is proven otherwise.

However, if a decision needs to be made and a healthcare professional thinks that you might lack capacity, then they will assess whether or not you have capacity to make that decision.