Under English law, all adults have the right to refuse medical treatment, even if that treatment is required to save their life, as long as they have sufficient capacity (the ability to use and understand information to make a decision).
Under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act (2005), all adults are presumed to have sufficient capacity to decide on their own medical treatment, unless there is significant evidence to suggest otherwise.
The evidence has to show that:
- a person’s mind or brain is impaired or disturbed;
- the impairment or disturbance means the person is unable to make a decision at the current time.
Examples of impairments or disturbances in the mind or brain include:
- brain damage due to severe head injury, stroke or dementia;
- mental health conditions such as psychosis (where a person is unable to tell the difference between reality and their imagination