Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Research Student: Kevin De Sabbata

Decision making capacity and severe dementia in law and practice in England, Germany and Italy

Photo of Kevin De Sabbata

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease that causes a progressive loss of memory and produces a notably variable cognitive pattern from case to case. This variability causes uncertainties in the assessment of legal capacity, and those responsible for the care of people with dementia may frequently assume these people lack decision-making capacity.

The principal objective of my research is to explore how law may be used to guarantee that decision-making respects and enhances the capacity of individuals wherever this is possible. In this my research aims to contribute to the move away from substitute best interests assessments and towards supported decision-making wherever this is possible. This is in line with developing international trends, not least demonstrated by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

In order to achieve my objectives, my starting point is a comparative analysis of the regulation of mental capacity, substitute decision-making, and alternative models in three emblematic legal systems (England, Germany and Italy), which exhibit a diverse approach in this field.

In order to understand how to practically implement effective supported decision-making – and the legal provisions, supporting codes of practice, and policy that this would require - I intend to critically assess the relevant literature in the field. Following this I will interview people engaged in supported decision-making, as well as researchers engaged in the development of our understanding of effective techniques and new ways of communication.

The questions at the centre of my research have received new importance by virtue of UNCRPD. Article 12 affirms that people with disabilities must enjoy decision-making capacity on an equal basis with other members of society and that law must be enacted to ensure this. This research project aims to contribute to this global movement.

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