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Assessment for mental capacity

Assessing decision-making capacity is an essential skill for doctors in clinical practice and it should be within the scope of all medical practitioners.  However, it is an area that many doctors lack confidence in skill and capacity.  

Primary health care practitioners are in a good position to assess the mental capacity of their patients.  Longitudinal therapeutic patient relationships and understanding of psychosocial background can help to detect significant changes from pre-morbid functioning and decision-making ability.   

This webinar aims to provide a framework for capacity assessment – explanation of the law, practical guidance for practitioners and how it is assessed with case studies to provide context.  It will be fronted by expert speakers across a range of disciplines including law, medicine and ethics.

Questions will be welcomed during the course of the webinar. Please note that the webinar may run slightly over time so as many of your questions as possible can be answered.




Alison Douglass


Alison Douglass is a Dunedin barrister specializing in health and disability law. She represents people with impaired capacity and their families in the Family and appellate courts, including people subject to the main legislation in this field, the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 (PPPR Act).

Alison is the 2014 recipient of the New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellowship.


John McMillan

Bio-ethics Professor, The University of Otago

John McMillan is a Professor at the Bioethics Centre, University of Otago.

He is Editor in Chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics and was a member of the working party that wrote the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report Dementia: Ethical Issues.


Dr Greg Young

Consultant Psychiatrist, Capital Coast DHB

Dr Greg Young is a consultant psychiatrist at Capital Coast DHB. He is a clinical senior lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine and an associate of the Bioethics Centre, University of Otago.