Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 121–134 | Cite as

Mental competence and the question of beneficent intervention

  • David Checkland
  • Michel Silberfeld


The authors examine recent arguments purporting to show that mental incompetence (lack of decision-making capacity) is not a necessary condition for intervention in a person's best interests without consent. It is concluded that these arguments fail to show that competent wishes could justifiably be overturned. Nonetheless, it remains an open question whether accounts of decision-making capacity based solely on the notions of understanding and appreciation can adequately deal with various complexities. Different possible ways of resolving these complexities are outlined, all of which need further exploration.

Key words

capacity decision-making mental competence paternalism rationality risk understanding 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Checkland
    • 1
  • Michel Silberfeld
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRyerson Polytechnic UniversityCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Centre for BioethicsUniversity of TorontoCanada

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