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Covid, the Court and Best Interests

Last week the Court published its judgment in relation to the first covid vaccination / best interests case it has heard.

The case involved an 80 year old woman who had been diagnosed with dementia and schizophrenia. She had been assessed by her GP as lacking capacity to make a decision about receiving her covid vaccination. The case came before the Court because her son was deeply sceptical about whether the vaccine had been adequately tested on patients similar to his mother.

It was Judge Hayden who presided over the case. He said that "Evaluating capacity on this singe and entirely fact specific issue is unlikely to be a complex or overly sophisticated process when undertaken, for example, by experienced GPs and with the assistance of family members or care staff who know the individual well".

As you know from previous articles when someone lacks capacity to make a decision a best interest test has to be undertaken by those involved in the care of the individual that needs medical attention. This involves considering the good and the bad, the risk and the previous thoughts, wishes and feelings of the individual at the centre of the decision making process. It also involves considering the views of those family members considered important in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act.

In these circumstances the 80 year old woman had previously consented to flu vaccinations and had advised her GP, when administering vaccinations, she would accept what the GP thought best. Taking her previous actions into account, and the fact she was at a very high risk of infection as she was living in a care home with other covid positive relatives the Judge found it easy to determine that the vaccination was in her best interests. This is despite arguments from the son, which the Judge felt were more about him than the best interests of his mother.

Whilst this case demonstrated that the Judge, in these circumstances, felt that vaccination was in the best interest of the lady involved with this case, each case has its own facts and circumstances that provide evidence upon which decisions are made. It may not always be the case that a vaccination is consider in the best interests of someone who lacks capacity.

For further information in relation to assessing capacity or questions about best interests please contact the Argo team.


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