For decisions about health and welfare, the MCA applies to everyone over the age of 16 years (it can apply to younger people for property and financial decisions). It provides a legal framework for making decisions where a person cannot give consent for themselves.
establishes a presumption that a person over 16 has the capacity to make decisions for themselves, and emphasises the need to support people to do so where possible
sets out the test to show that a person lacks capacity for a particular decision (because of a “disturbance or impairment in the functioning of the mind or brain”, the person is unable to understand, or retain, or use / weigh the information relevant to the decision, or to communicate the decision). This is usually assessed by the clinician / professional who wants to offer treatment or care, and must be specific to that particular decision and the time the decision must be made
requires that where a person lacks capacity for a decision, that decision must be made in their best interests. This is very widely defined, and must always be tested against the question whether there is a less restrictive way to meet their best interests
provides for appointment of Lasting Powers of Attorney, or court appointed deputies, to make decisions in some cases (see below)
establishes the Court of Protection as a forum to resolve disputes as a last resort.