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Valid consent for treatment or research participation requires that an individual has decision-making capacity (DMC), which is the ability to make a specific decision. There is evidence that the psychopathology of schizophrenia can compromise DMC. The objective of this review was to examine the presence or absence of DMC in schizophrenia and the socio-demographic/psychopathological factors associated.
We searched three databases Embase, Ovid MEDLINE(R), and PsycINFO for studies reporting data on the proportion of DMC for treatment and research (DMC-T and DMC-R), and/or socio-demographic/psychopathological associations with ability to make such decisions, in people with schizophrenia and related illnesses.
A total of 40 studies were identified. While high levels of heterogeneity limited direct comparison, meta-analysis of inpatient data showed that DMC-T was present in 48% of people. Insight was strongly associated with DMC-T. Neurocognitive deficits were strongly associated with lack of DMC-R and to a lesser extent DMC-T. With the exception of years of education, there was no evidence for an association with socio-demographic factors.
Insight and neurocognitive deficits are most closely associated with DMC in schizophrenia. The lack of an association with socio-demographic factors dispels common misperceptions regarding DMC and characteristics such as age. Although our results reveal a wide spectrum of DMC-T and DMC-R in schizophrenia, this could be partly due to the complexity of the DMC construct and the heterogeneity of existing studies. To facilitate systematic review research, there is a need for improvement within research study design and increased consistency of concepts and tools.
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