Competence to Consent and Its Relationship With Cognitive Function in Patients With Schizophrenia

Competence to Consent and Its Relationship With Cognitive Function in Patients With Schizophrenia
Norio Sugawara, Norio Yasui-Furukori, Tomiki Sumiyoshi
Frontiers of Psychiatry, 12 April 2019
Decisional capacity to consent is an emerging ethical and legal concept, and is closely related to self-determination of patients facing important medical decisions or research participations. Recently, the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool (MacCAT), a semi-structured interview consisting of four dimensions (Understanding, Appreciation, Reasoning, and Expression of a Choice), was developed to assess the decisional capacity. Decision-making capacity in a group of patients with schizophrenia, as measured by the MacCAT, has been shown to be impaired in comparison with healthy control people. However, this does not necessarily mean the presence of impaired decisional capacity in all cases. Considering the real-world practice of obtaining informed consent from patients with schizophrenia, it is important to evaluate the relationship between psychopathological features and decisional capacity of the illness. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia have been demonstrated to be related to the ability to understand information relevant to the decision, reason rationally, and appreciate a situation and its consequences. On the other hand, positive symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations have been an inconsistent correlate of poor capacity. Furthermore, some studies indicate that impairment of cognitive function, a core symptom of schizophrenia, could be more largely associated with decisional capacity than positive and negative symptoms. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume cognitive enhancement would enlarge the capacity to consent and promote autonomy in medical treatment and research participation in patients with schizophrenia. Further studies are warranted to elucidate this and related issues.

Editor’s note: More information regarding the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool (MacCAT) noted in the abstract is available here.

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