There are times when the law has to make decisions on behalf of people who lack capacity; that is to say, who are unable for one reason or another to make these decisions for themselves.
These cases will be brought before the Court of Protection, and are often heard and judged without the presence of the media in order to protect the person’s right to privacy. This causes objections within the media, and judges are required to weigh up whether it is in the public interest for the court’s findings to be made available, or not. Sometimes, the publication of complex cases, in particular regarding serious family disputes, could be deemed as being in the public interest because it serves to inform others how to avoid such a state of affairs.
It is hard enough to decide what is best for yourself sometimes, let alone another person whose situation is likely to be complex, with pros and cons on either side of the balance sheet. The Court has a delicate operation to carry out, and the consequences of its decision often concern the removal of certain rights. Examples of cases heard by the Court of Protection include making the decision as to whether an autistic man had the capacity to marry; and whether or not a pregnant woman with learning disabilities should have a caesarean section in direct contrast to her own wishes, having had five previous babies and serious medical complications. The Court also deals with the properties and financial affairs of people who do not have capacity. It’s a hugely difficult job with massive implications for the people involved. Do you think that you could ever make such life-changing decisions for another person, if they were deemed to lack the capacity to do so for themselves?