Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Although mental incapacity is becoming increasingly important in clinical practice, little information is available on its frequency in medical inpatients. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of mental incapacity in acutely admitted medical inpatients; to determine the frequency that medical teams recognised patients who did not have mental capacity; and to identify factors associated with mental incapacity. METHODS: Over an 18-month period, we recruited 302 consecutive acute medical inpatients. Participants were assessed with the MacArthur competence tool for treatment and by clinical interview. Cognitive impairment was measured by the mini-mental state examination. FINDINGS: 72 (24%) patients were severely cognitively impaired, unconscious, or unable to express a choice and were automatically assigned to the incapacity group. 71 (24%) refused to participate or could not speak English. Thus, 159 patients were interviewed. Of these, 31% (95% CI 24-38) were judged not to have mental capacity. For the total sample (n=302), we estimated that at least 40% did not have mental capacity. Clinical teams rarely identified patients who did not have mental capacity: of 50 patients interviewed, 12 (24%) were rated as lacking capacity. Factors associated with mental incapacity were increasing age and cognitive impairment. INTERPRETATION: Mental incapacity is common in acutely ill medical inpatients, and clinicians tend not to recognise it. Screening methods for cognitive impairment could be useful in detecting those with doubtful capacity to consent.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17224-3

Type

Journal article

Journal

Lancet

Publication Date

16/10/2004

Volume

364

Pages

1421 - 1427

Keywords

Empirical Approach, Professional Patient Relationship, Acute Disease, Age Factors, Aged, Cognition Disorders, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Inpatients, Interview, Psychological, Male, Mental Competency, Mental Status Schedule, Middle Aged, Patient Participation, Risk Factors