Empowering patients with dementia to make legally effective decisions: a randomized controlled trial on enhancing capacity to consent to treatment

Empowering patients with dementia to make legally effective decisions: a randomized controlled trial on enhancing capacity to consent to treatment
Research Article
Aoife Poth, Susanne Penger, Maren Knebel, Tanja Müller, Johannes Pantel, Frank Oswald, Julia Haberstroh
Aging & Mental Health, 6 January 2022
Abstract
Objectives
As our society ages, the incidence of age-related diseases increases and with it the number of medical treatments that require informed consent. Capacity to consent is often categorically questioned in persons with dementia (PwD) without appropriate assessment, depriving them of their right to autonomous decision-making. Supportive structures for PwD that comply with legal requirements are lacking. The EmMa project tried to overcome this shortcoming by developing and testing possible supportive measures to enhance the informed consent process for PwD.
Method
These enhanced consent procedures (ECPs) were tested in a randomized controlled trial with 40 PwD. It was hypothesized that strengths-based ECPs could improve capacity to consent to a drug treatment in PwD as measured with a semi-structured interview.
Results
Against the expectations, no effect of the ECPs on capacity to consent could be found, but the ECPs improved understanding of information in PwD.
Conclusion
To empower PwD in clinical settings, however, all aspects of capacity to consent should be targeted with specific aids that are implemented carefully and selectively. More research on possible aids for ECPs is urgently needed in order to enable ethically and legally robust informed consent. In particular, effective ways to improve both reasoning and appreciation are yet to be found.

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