Managing the affairs of someone else – Health and Welfare
In the past I’ve discussed creating LPAs, so that you can appoint another person to manage your affairs, if you become unable to do so. It is probably worthwhile looking at this from the other angle, how do you manage the affairs of another person?
I’m going to take these subjects one blog at a time, starting with how to make health and welfare decisions for another person.
The only time that you can ever make decisions about another person’s health and social care decisions is when they lack capacity to make decisions themselves. Each decision is different, it relates to the complexity of that individual decision and the time in which it needs to be made. So people can lack capacity for complex decisions (such as what care to have or where to live) and still have capacity for simple decisions (such as whether they are thirsty or want to eat chocolate). We almost all have something that is a pleasure to us, it becomes a habit, it might be a certain piece of clothing or a certain food (chocolate is a good example) and so people know for a long time that they like that thing, even when they lack insight into the bigger picture of their situation.
So the things to consider when making a decision is what would the person want? That doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the decision that you will make, but it has to be a big influence on your decision. Sometimes what people want isn’t possible (most people don’t want to go into care, but it might become necessary). They might not want to make a fuss and accept what is going to happen, but that also might not be the right thing for them.
When making a decision you have to look at all the factors, the pros and cons of any situation and in the end you make the decision yourself, if you are attorney or deputy for health and welfare. It must be an individual decision taking into account all the information that you know about this person, it should not be a generic decision about someone of the same age, race, gender, disability etc. People have the right to make an “unwise choice” and should not be deemed to lack capacity because they do so and this also goes for attorneys, but the unwise choice must be in their best interests. The primary purpose of the decision should not be to end or shorten their life, even if that is the case, there need to be another motivation to make a decision to shorten someone’s life, around why it is in their best interests. This is to overcome the potential conflict of interest that arises when an attorney is a beneficiary of the estate and will ultimately inherit, so the shortening of life will hasten the inheritance.
Whatever you decide, you are responsible for the decision and the reasons behind the making of that decision, so if this is ever questioned by a family member of the authorities, the attorney will be able to stand by their decision and the reasons that they made it. If the decision is not in their best interests, such as discharging a very poorly person from hospital to their home with no package of care, it would be considered neglect and an application to the Court of Protection to have that person removed could be made.
I’ve been consulted about lots of these kinds of matters and they are often around going into care, the continuation of medication etc, however I’ve also had the point raised by a client that they were a football supporter and did not want to wear the football strip of their rival team. Universally the important decisions are often where someone should be cared for and their end of life decisions. In order to help your potential attorneys, it is useful to have a conversation about these issues, so that they know your views.