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Informed consent with people judged incapable of legally consenting

Amy Bittick (Department of Counseling, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, USA)
Ryan Holliman (Department of Counseling, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, USA)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 6 April 2023

Issue publication date: 24 April 2023

337

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to consider informed consent with those who may be legally judged incapable of consent. Frequently individuals with traumatic brain injuries and intellectual disabilities may fall into this category. This paper seeks to consider aspects of guardianship, moral and legal implications and best practices for mental health professionals.

Design/methodology/approach

This practice piece reviews literature regarding informed consent, as well as pertinent issues in the professional literature regarding types of guardianship as well as the occurrence of “Lucid intervals.” Furthermore, literature from moral philosophy and current legal research was examined to fully provide readers with a grasp of the legal and ethical landscape of this issue.

Findings

The paper finds that treating consent as a one-time binary event is lacking in both practicality and nuance. Moral philosophy and issues regarding paternalism are raised, as well as practice approaches to assessment of capability and how to engage in therapy in meaningful ways.

Originality/value

This paper provides insight into providing dignity-affirming therapy with a population that is often not considered in the literature of mental health ethics. When it is considered, the suggestions are so vague as to be of limited use. This manuscript provides nuance and practical applications to be a therapist that promotes dignity in those who might have varying levels of capacity to consent.

Keywords

Citation

Bittick, A. and Holliman, R. (2023), "Informed consent with people judged incapable of legally consenting", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 95-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/AMHID-10-2022-0040

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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