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Defining Capacity: The Competing Interests Of Autonomy And Need, Nancy J. Knauer Jan 2003

Defining Capacity: The Competing Interests Of Autonomy And Need, Nancy J. Knauer

Nancy J. Knauer

This Essay addresses the question of capacity - the basic threshold determination that pervades all areas of the law. An individual must have the requisite level of capacity to consent to sex, refuse medical treatment, enter into a contract, marry, divorce, relinquish parental rights, execute a will, make a gift, donate organs, vote, serve on a jury, stand trial, and even to hire a lawyer. The standards regulating determinations of capacity are not monolithic. An individual may lack the capacity to contract, but may have the requisite capacity to write a will or to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. As individuals, …