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Using LEGO to support capacity and enable informed consent

Consent to treatment: patient preparing for an MRI scan

LEGO has launched a new kit designed to help ease children’s anxieties around using an MRI scanner. This fantastic toy helps bridge the gap in understanding around what is going to happen, putting the process of an MRI scan in terms that a child can understand, facilitating their comprehension and thereby reducing anxiety around the whole process.

While this is clearly an excellent idea to help young people come to terms with what can be a potentially quite scary experience, the LEGO kit can also potentially benefit other service users as well, such as adults with learning disabilities or a range of other conditions. This is particularly important when it comes to the question of consent. After all, how can an adult properly consent to a treatment that they cannot understand, or even comprehend in their own terms?

From my many years working as an occupational therapist and advocate, I am all too aware of the general lack of understanding around the Mental Capacity Act outside of the mental health and learning-disabilities settings. This lack of understanding is particularly relevant when it comes to the question of consent. After all, the two concepts are intrinsically linked; as health professionals we cannot gain informed consent without first confirming that the service user has understanding, is able to retain information, and is able to weigh up the decision to be made.

Though of course we must presume that an individual has capacity to consent to a specific treatment decision, if we are in doubt at all, we must apply the principles of the Mental Capacity Act in full, and assess it formally if so needed – across all settings, not just mental health

It is therefore really encouraging to learn of the steps being taken in MRI departments to help promote understanding in those under the age of 16. While it may seem like a relatively trivial development to use LEGO in this way, small things such as this can potentially make a really big difference to patients, and their ability to consent (or not) to treatment.

In the complex worlds of health and care, this can only be a good thing.

If you have any thoughts or experiences, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or get in touch via our website.

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