The Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice has now been published.

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 provides a statutory framework for people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. It sets out who can take decisions, in which situations, and how they should go about this. It also enables people to make provision for a time in the future when they may lack capacity to make some decisions. Some of the Act came into effect in April and the rest will do so in October 2007.

The Act's Code of Practice sets out good practice and covers an extensive range of different decisions that might need to be taken. The MCA requires a range of people to 'have regard' to the code, for example anyone acting in a professional or paid role in relation to someone who lacks capacity.

More than 160 individuals and organisations responded to a consultation on the Code of Practice in October last year, including Care Not Killing.

The most controversial part of the Act allows for advance refusals of food and fluids, and concerns have been expressed that, in the wrong hands, these could be abused by those seeking to end the lives of mentally incapacitated people who have 'become a burden'.

Care Not Killing comments: 'We have consistently opposed the concept of legally binding advance refusals, believing that, in the wrong hands, they could force doctors to make decisions that they feel are clinically inappropriate and not in patients' best interests. We will be following carefully the implementation of this new legislation to ensure that there are no abuses of vulnerable people. We are particularly concerned to make sure that there is no scope for persons or parties with an interest, financial or otherwise, in a person's death to influence these critical decisions'.