Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

60.Memorandum from James and Catherine Reid (MIB 206)

  We would like to make the following points as regards the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill.

  1.  New Clause—we urge the committee to add a new clause which outlaws the withdrawal of food and fluid in order to cause death.

  2.  "Patient's best interests"—this requires a clearer and more precise definition. Chance remarks overheard or the perception of someone's wants, wishes are too vague. It would preserve the human dignity and rights of all concerned if "objective medical criteria" could be written into the Bill. These should include—restoring and maintaining health of patient but where no cure is possible an insistence on control of symptoms including pain.

  3.  Lasting Powers of attorney—the right of patients to name proxies in the event of their becoming mentally incapacitated should be included in the Bill. In this way the reasonable will of the patient can be respected and family members so named are able to represent the patient and enter into dialogue with the medical staff.

  4.  Appeal system—to counterbalance any person nominated as proxy who acts out of self interest rather than in the best interest of the patient, doctors should be protected by being able to appeal. Similarly families and patients would be protected also.

  5.  Advance Directives "Living Wills"—we urge that the House of Lords Select Committee finding that advance directives are helpful to doctors and carers in decision making but warned against making them legally binding in Statute Law be applied to this Bill. There is the danger that patients can be depriving themselves of treatment discovered after they have signed an advanced directive. We urge the Standing Committee to NOT make Advanced Directives legally binding in Statute Law.

August 2003

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