A person's decision-making capacity or ability to make and verbalize a decision is known as competency. Competence is important because it affects whether a person is legally able to give consent or sign legal documents. This is the part of the law dealing with autonomy.
If you or a loved one is asked to undergo a competency evaluation, you may have questions. Understanding what's involved and possible outcomes can help ease concerns about the process.
Why Are Competency Evaluations Done?
Individuals who have psychotic episodes or who are thought to be not of sound mind often need to undergo a competency evaluation. This evaluation is often done in a variety of different legal situations.
- Evaluation for guardianship
- Evaluation for certain occupations
- Evaluations for the elderly in power of attorney cases
- Evaluations for persons standing trial
Anytime a person's mental capacity is in question, a competency evaluation can prove or disprove the allegations.
What Does The Evaluation Involve?
A competency evaluation determines how much a person understands and remembers. The focus is on ensuring a person understands and retains relevant information so he or she can make informed, sound decisions. A person can prove competency in the following ways:
- Showing comprehension of the information presented
- Showing an understanding of this information
- Showing an ability to make sound choices among those provided by the evaluator
- Showing an understanding of the impact of their decisions
The evaluation also tests a patient's ability to communicate decisions they have made. A doctor gives the evaluation and then sends a recommendation to a court if necessary.
Do Doctors Declare A Person Incompetent?
While a doctor or psychologist conducts competency evaluations, only a judge can declare a person incompetent. A court proceeding takes place to help a judge decide how to rule on a case-by-case basis. The role of the medical professional is to write a letter to the court of their finding to help a judge make an informed decision.
The court hears evidence from both the petitioning party's evidence and the relatives, health care providers, acquaintances, and social workers of the person under evaluation. Based on this information, the court may deem them incompetent to handle certain tasks, or the judge may rule a person unable to care for themselves at all.
When a person is ruled competent, whether partially or completely, the judge appoints a guardian to assist the incompetent person with tasks that he or she can't manage alone. A competency evaluation isn't complicated and it's often used for a person to get help in an area where they may make a poor decision and fall prey to scams and other nefarious situations.
To learn more about competency evaluations, contact a provider like Reliant Mental Health Services.