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Pace University

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Bioethics and Medical Ethics

Capacity

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Narrative Capacity, James Toomey May 2022

Narrative Capacity, James Toomey

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

The doctrine of capacity is a fundamental threshold to the protections of private law. The law only recognizes private decision-making—from exercising the right to transfer or bequeath property and entering into a contract to getting married or divorced—made with the level of cognitive functioning that the capacity doctrine demands. When the doctrine goes wrong, it denies individuals, particularly older adults, access to basic private-law rights on the one hand and ratifies decision-making that may tear apart families and tarnish legacies on the other.

The capacity doctrine in private law is built on a fundamental philosophical mismatch. It is grounded in …


How To End Our Stories: A Study Of The Perspectives Of Seniors On Dementia And Decision-Making, James Toomey Jan 2021

How To End Our Stories: A Study Of The Perspectives Of Seniors On Dementia And Decision-Making, James Toomey

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Because dementia can cause individuals to make decisions that they otherwise would not, the law needs a mechanism to determine which decisions are entitled to the respect of the legal system and which may be overridden by others. In the philosophical literature, three primary theories for how to make this determination have been offered. First, "Cognitivism" posits that whether a decision should be recognized is a function of the mechanical functioning of the individual's brain at the time the decision is made. Second, "Essentialism" holds that decisions should be recognized so long as they are consistent with the cluster of …