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You are watching: What is the difference between capacity and competence?

StatPearls . Sweetheart Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.


Competency and also Capacity

Christopher Libby; Amanda Wojahn; Joseph R. Nicolini; Gary Gillette.

Author Information

Continuing education and learning Activity

This short article reviews the ideas of capacity and competency through regard to clinical practice. Much more specifically, it discusses the foundational honest principles of respect because that persons, beneficence, and justice, the prestige of a thorough knowledge of these principles, and also the difference between capacity and competence. Finally, this article analyzes how to evaluate and record capacity for clinical decision-making.

Review the relevant meanings of competency, capacity, tort, educated consent, clinical provider, respect because that persons, beneficence, and also justice.
Summarize why assessment and also documentation of capacity is imperative for patient safety and protection of suppliers from legit retribution.


The Hippocratic Oath instructs physicians and other clinical providers to first, “do no harm”. Similarly, the three ethical principles laid soon in the Belmont Report ask carriers to prioritize respect because that persons, beneficence, and also justice in their day-to-day practice. If is it crucial for service providers of medical treatment to uphold this tenets, frequently situations arise where it is impossible to satisfy all. Medical providers space tasked v multiple duties simultaneously - healer, patient advocate, protector the hospital staff, guardian of publicly health, citizen, and a humanist and spiritual being. Providers should be ready for the instance that areas these roles and priorities at odds. This short article will talk about relevant definitions, delve additional into the moral principles presented above, and also prepare clinical providers for exactly how to technique these complicated patient encounters with the will of maximizing benefit for all and also protecting the provider(s) involved.

Issues the Concern

Relevant definitions

In any academic conversation, it is an important to ensure that all participants recognize the shared lexicon. This is even much more important worrying the subject of competency and also capacity - an ethically and legally charged subject, the if not interpreted or executed appropriately can contribute to patient harm and also legal activity against medical providers.

Capacity is characterized as "a sensible determination that an separation, personal, instance is or is not qualified of making a clinical decision in ~ a offered situation" <1>. This is loved one to the baseline capability of the patient, pertains only to the present situation, and takes into factor to consider the severity of the possible consequences.

Competency is characterized as “the capacity of an separation, personal, instance to participate in legitimate proceedings”. Legitimate competence is presumed - to disprove an individual"s competence needs a hearing and also presentation that evidence. Competence is determined by a judge <1><2><3>. This legal determination is never figured out by clinical providers. Because this determination is no made by providers we will not use this term further in this article.

A Tort is characterized as "an act, or omission of an act, that outcomes in injury or harm to an individual. This is a volitional plot done v intent to cause harm or suffering" <4>.

Informed Consent is characterized as "the systematic method to patience education and also medical decision-making about a details treatment or procedure" <5>. This is both one ethical and also legal command in contemporary medicine and also requires a conversation of the nature that the procedure, the risks and also benefits, the reasonable alternatives, and an assessment of the patient"s knowledge of this items <5>. Refer to separate StatPearls posts on this topic.

A clinical Provider is, in the paper definition of this article, restricted to licensed physicians (MD, DO), physician assistants, and advanced degree nurse practitioners. This term is herein limited because these space the medical experts who are legally permitted to evaluate and paper mental capacity for clinical decision-making.

Ethical ethics Involved

When graduating from medical school, all brand-new physicians recite the Hippocratic Oath. The Oath, related to as one of the earliest expression of medical principles in the western World, instructs medical professionals 1) to usage medical education for the advantage of all, 2) to abstain indigenous intentional wrongdoing or damage to patients, and 3) to hold mystery the info learned around patients. Over the years, this instructions have actually been reduced to the common aphorism the "first execute no harm".

The Belmont Report that 1976 build from this principle of “first carry out no harm” and also gives physicians an ethical basis indigenous which to construct their clinical practice. Spurred by events of unethical clinical practice (e.g. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study), the Belmont Report explains and also extends three basic ethical values that the practitioner have to use together a overview to the moral practice of clinical practice <6>. These principles are:

1. Respect for Persons: The root honest principle below counsels the practitioner to uphold and enable for patient autonomy. This includes allowing all suitable patients the possibility for notified consent prior to receiving medical treatment or undergoing procedures.

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2. Beneficence: This term is the modern-day equivalent because that Hippocrates"  principle of "do no harm". In practice, the ethical problem addressed examines the risk/benefit proportion of the proposed clinical treatment, while concurrently 1) maximizing patience benefit and also 2) minimizing harm or discomfort. This requires both making decisions to advantage the patient, and taking affirmative procedures to protect against or remove injury from the patient. What is useful for the patience is highly personal and multi-faceted, and also involves consideration of the patient"s clinical prognosis and also multiple spatu factors, together as purposes of care, top quality of life, financial considerations, family input, etc. 3. Justice: The overarching viewpoint of this principle instructs the practitioner come ensure fair finish equitable distribution of medical resources regardless of demographics, insurance money status, socioeconomic status, psychological disability, etc. Save in mind the "physician paternalism" (here defined as "the policy of restricting the freedom and responsibility the patients versus their will, and also defended through a case that the human being interfered with will be much better off or protected from harm") is not in company of these moral principles. Coercion right into the food of activity that the provider thinks is finest neither respects patience autonomy nor upholds the rule of beneficence. Truly bringing these ethics into daily practice requires taking the time to connect your findings and recommendations come the patient, proactively listening to your questions and also concerns, and also making a mutual decision. Ultimately, this decision may not agree with what the provider think is best. Supporting that decision, if appropriate, is part of practicing respect for patient autonomy.