BMA guidance

Adults with Incapacity in Scotland

This toolkit acts as a guide to doctors in Scotland when they are providing care and treatment for people who lack, or may lack, the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf.

Location: Scotland
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 31 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this toolkit

  • Practical guidance on how to assess capacity and the general principles of the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000
  • Information on the general authority to treat, assessing benefit, dispute resolution and the use of restraint and restrictive practices
  • Guidance on the role of proxy decision makers and the status of advance statements refusing treatment
  • Links to other relevant guidance and resources from the BMA and other bodies such as the Scottish Government, the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland), and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

You may also be interested to see our core ethics guidance


How to use this toolkit

The purpose of this toolkit is not to provide definitive answers for every situation but to identify the key factors that need to be considered when decisions are made; to summarise the relevant legal considerations; and to signpost other key professional guidance. It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues.

  • Capacity and incapacity
  • Basic principles
  • Assessing incapacity
  • Benefit
  • Certificate of incapacity and general authority to treat
  • Proxy decision makers
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Guardianship and intervention orders
  • Advance statements refusing treatment
  • Treatment in an emergency
  • Treatments requiring special safeguards
  • Restraint and restrictive practices
  • Research
  • Relationship with mental health legislation
  • Dispute resolution
  • Confidentiality and information sharing