Decision Making and Capacity


Guide for Assessing Medical Decision-Making Capacity

The patient with decision-making capacity is the appropriate decision maker, unless the patient has delegated that authority to another or the patient is determined, by a physician, to lack capacity to make medical decisions. This guide provides suggestions and resources for assessing decisional capacity.

Determining the Appropriate Decision Maker

Decision-making capacity is determined by the primary physician or supervising healthcare provider, unless the patient has directed that someone else make that determination in a written advance directive. Capacity may vary, and the patient may have capacity for some decisions and not for others. Patients should be allowed to make as many of the healthcare decisions as possible. This guide helps clinicians determine who is the appropriate surrogate decision maker for an incapacitated patient.