Assessment for mental capacity

WEBINAR: Tuesday, 6 October 2020. 7.30 - 8.45 pm

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, Greg Young and John McMillan are the authors of Assessment of Mental Capacity: A New Zealand Guide for Doctors and Lawyers. Based on the Toolkit for Assessing Capacity, it combines an explanation of the law, case studies and practical guidance for health and legal practitioners about capacity.  Namely, how it is assessed and what supporting people with impaired capacity means in practice. It is also the basis of the Goodfellow courses:



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 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 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.


This presentation is intended for qualified health practitioners professional development and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Any opinions offered are those of the presenter or other speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of Goodfellow Unit.

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