Informed consent requires adequate mental capacity to consent to treatment. Mental capacity (MC) to consent to treatment refers to the ability to make medical decisions. MC is assessed in a general psychiatric interview, but this clinical assessment is known to overestimate mental capacity in patients and the inter rater reliability is low. The MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Treatment (MacCAT-T) has emerged as the gold standard to assess mental capacity to consent to treatment. The MacCAT-T is a semi-structured interview designed to aid clinicians in this assessment and has shown good inter rater reliability in patients with schizophrenia and other mental disorders, but has hardly been studied in patients with anorexia nervosa. Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) regularly avoid treatment, even when severely ill and discussion includes assessing MC to consent to treatment. The aim of this study is to compare clinical judgment and the MacCAT-T in evaluating MC in patients with AN which in turn may influence use of the MacCAT-T in daily practice. In a sample of 70 consecutively referred severely ill patients with AN with a mean BMI of 15.5 kg/m2 and a mean duration of illness of 8.6 years, clinical assessment of MC by experienced psychiatrists and the outcome of the MacCAT-T interview were compared. Agreement (κ-value) was calculated. Agreement between clinical assessment and outcome of the MacCAT-T was questionable (κ 0.23). Unlike in other psychiatric populations, clinicians judged a high proportion of patients with AN as having diminished MC. The MacCAT-T can be useful in assessing MC in AN when used in addition to clinical judgment to aid clinicians in complex cases. Why clinicians judge a relatively high proportion of patients with AN as having diminished MC, in contrast to lower proportions in other psychiatric disorders, is an area in need of further research.
Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; MacCAT-T; Mental capacity.
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