Evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the MCA suggests that the principles of the MCA are generally popular among professionals and researchers, although the DoLS are much less so. Most agree that there are concerns about the implementation of the MCA. However, there is concern – especially amongst lawyers, academics and disability rights campaigners – that the MCA’s principles may violate a new treaty – the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is likely to be a topic of some debate for many years to come.
There have been a number of major research studies on the MCA. The first was Making Best Interests Decisions: People and Processes by researchers at the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol, the Mental Health Foundation and the University of Bradford. The Mental Health Foundation has published a helpful literature review of academic studies on the MCA. The University of Bristol is carrying out a study on the DoLS. The University of Cambridge has completed a study on the interface between the Mental Health Act 1983 and the DoLS – an area fraught with difficulty. The Essex Autonomy Project at the University of Essex has examined the philosophical dimensions of the MCA, and has run several events bringing together people from different backgrounds to discuss these issues. The Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Research Group at the Universities of Cardiff and York also examine issues relating to the MCA and people with chronic disorders of consciousness. Researchers at Newcastle University and Northumbria are researching the assessment of capacity and best interests in dementia on discharge from hospital. The Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford is considering many issues related to capacity and clinical ethics. Many other researchers from around the country are also involved in research on the MCA, for example researchers at the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton, the London School of Economics, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London.
One key area of discussion and debate around the MCA is its compatibility with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD provides that people with disabilities should be able to enjoy ‘legal capacity’ (the right to make legally recognised decisions) on an equal basis with others (Article 12 CRPD). Some people believe that the MCA may not be compatible with this. Many of the academics cited in this section have written about this, and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway are also conducting research in this area.