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Surrogate decision making is the process by which one or more medical treatment decisions, or other decisions relating to healthcare and personal welfare, are made on behalf of adults who are judged to lack the decision-making competence (or capacity) to make such decisions for themselves.

When is Surrogate Decision Making Required?

Surrogate decision making is required when a medical decision needs to be made for a patient who is judged to be unable to give, or withhold, informed consent. Surrogate decision making is distinguished, therefore, from medical decision making without consent, which relates to compulsory psychiatric assessment or treatment for adults with mental disorders, and the involuntary detention and treatment of adults with communicable diseases that pose a risk to public health.

In numerous legal jurisdictions, decision-making competence ...

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