It’s tempting to think that capacity challenges are for other people, that we will always be in possession of our faculties and able to decide for ourselves right to the end. Sadly, that may not be so, as more and more of us live longer and experience the mental frailties that can go with that longevity.
Back in the bad old days, just having a diagnosis that implied lack of capacity was enough to deny us our right to make any decision at all. It was once-and-for all and all encompassing. In the UK, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 made it mandatory to presume capacity unless there was reason to believe otherwise and, critically, this has to be on a decision-specific basis, not diagnosis.
This is why assessments are so important, and why those assessments must be carried out in a way that enables the interviewee to make best use of their faculties.
If this is you or me, we most likely want to be given the best chance possible to show our capabilities, and that does not mean looking good when we shouldn’t any more than it means appearing to lack capacity when we don’t. It means getting it as right as possible in our own best interests.
Good Question is, we believe, the best technique currently available to help professionals of any discipline complete their own paperwork to a high standard. A standard that complies with legislation and is transparent and accountable in a way that abstract tests and opinion are not.
For a long time now, when a vulnerable adult is due to be interviewed by police because they are the victim of or witness to a crime, we have been able to expect that interview to be carried out by an officer trained in the cognitive interview. Our ambition for Good Question is that it becomes the gold standard – until something better comes along – for capacity interviews.
If you are a professional who conducts these interviews, you can help by giving the technique a try and letting us know how we can help. If you are a researcher, you can help by looking at methods of evaluation. And if you are someone who might be an interviewee or you know someone who could be, you can help by asking the interviewer if they know about Good Question.
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Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill