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Autism: Drugs

Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what procedures are in place to ensure that adults with autism or special needs in care homes are asked whether they wish their next of kin to be informed when a course of powerful drugs is prescribed for them. (324766)

There are no procedures that apply uniquely to adults with autism or special needs.

Adults with autism or special needs should be assessed to determine whether they have the capacity to consent to treatment. Where a person has been assessed as having the capacity to consent to treatment, it is up to the patient to decide whether they wish to inform any family members or discuss the treatment with family members. It would be inappropriate for staff at a care home or for health professionals to discuss such matters with the family, as this would be a breach of confidentiality.

If a person does not have the capacity to understand and to decide whether to consent or not, then health professionals have to take a “Best Interests” decision. The process is described in the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) Code of Practice, and requires professionals to follow certain steps.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 places a duty on health professionals to consult other people close to a person who lacks capacity on decisions affecting the person. Under section 4(7) of the MCA, health professionals have a duty to take into account the views of anyone involved in caring for the person and anyone interested in their welfare (for example family carers, other close relatives.) as part of a “Best Interests” decision. Therefore, the family should be consulted where the treatment is being made under a “Best Interests” decision because the person lacks capacity.