Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

Written evidence

45.Memorandum from the Association of Catholic Women (MIB 09)

  On behalf of members of the Association of Catholic Women, we are writing to express our concerns about the proposals in the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill.


  If Living Wills, so-called, were to have legal status, the possibility for treatment of the will writer will be frozen. Between the writing of the will and the occasion of its enactment, medical knowledge might have moved on, and cure or mitigation of the condition might be possible. Furthermore, we can envisage occasions where someone who has mandated denial of treatment should a particular circumstance arise, might well change his or her mind when the circumstances in question arose, if their mental capacity allowed them to do.


  As we understand it, Lasting Power of Attorney will give those appointed to look after the interests of a mentally incapacitated patient power over healthcare decisions, as well as money matters. This is to allocate very large powers to the Attorney. If the "best interests" of the patient are not seen as including hydration and nutrition, it will mean that the Attorney has power of life and death over the patient.


  Medical treatment seeks to cure or alleviate a medical condition which denies the patient ordinary good health. It seeks to remedy something something which is wrong with the patient. Nutrition and hydration are essential for life, tout court. However good a person's health, he or she will die without them. The manner in which they are administered does not alter what they are. They are not medication. They form part of ordinary nursing care, vital for survival. Whether mentally capable or not, each of us has a right to receive such care, even if the administration of drugs is unlikely to benefit us.

  Finally, we regret that the request for comments on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill has come in August when so many people are away. The importance of this draft bill is such that we would respectfully ask for an extension of the time for submissions.

  We very much hope that our comments will be taken into consideration.

August 2003

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