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Informed Consent (cont.)

Decision-Making Capacity

Decision-making capacity is often referred to by the legal term competency. It is one of the most important components of informed consent. Decision-making capacity is not black and white. You may have the capacity to make some decisions, but not others.

The components of decision-making capacity are as follows:

  • The ability to understand the options
  • The ability to understand the consequences of choosing each of the options
  • The ability to evaluate the personal cost and benefit of each of the consequences and relate them to your own set of values and priorities

If you are not able to do all of the components, family members, court-appointed guardians, or others (as determined by state law) may act as "surrogate decision-makers" and make decisions for you.

To have decision-making capacity does not mean that you, as the patient, will always make "good" decisions, or decisions that your doctor agrees with. Likewise, making a "bad" decision does not mean that you, as patient, are "incompetent" or do not have decision-making capacity.

Decision-making capacity, or competency, simply means that you can understand and explain the options, their implications, and give a rational reason why you would decide on a particular option instead of the others.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2014
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