Transformative Choice and Decision-Making Capacity

Law Quarterly Review 139 (4):654-680 (2023)
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This article is about the information relevant to decision-making capacity in refusal of life-prolonging medical treatment cases. We examine the degree to which the phenomenology of the options available to the agent—what the relevant states of affairs will feel like for them—forms part of the capacity-relevant information in the law of England and Wales, and how this informational basis varies across adolescent and adult medical treatment cases. We identify an important doctrinal phenomenon. In the leading authorities, the courts appear to count the first-personal phenomenology of the available options among the information that adolescents seeking to refuse life-prolonging treatment must understand and appreciate in order to possess capacity; adults are not held to this (higher) standard. We evaluate this differential treatment in light of philosophical work on transformative choice—decisions involving options whose sensory character, and effect on our values and preferences, are grasped only through experience itself.

Author Profiles

Isra Black
University College London
Lisa Forsberg
University of Oxford
Anthony Skelton
University of Western Ontario


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