Objective: To evaluate moral development as an indicator of the capacity to consent among two groups of patients from the Hospital de Clínicas in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
Method: Fifty-nine adolescents and 60 patients over 60 years of age participated in a cross-sectional study to assess moral development using Loevinger’s model of ego stages.
Results: Age and moral development showed no association, with most participants in the two groups being in the conscientious phase.
Conclusions: Age is probably not an adequate variable to measure decision-making capacity, because questions of medical consent relate to participants’ own personal health. Decision-making capacity should be viewed as a continuous function. While the age of the person whose consent is needed should be considered, age alone, from a moral perspective, is not the main determinant of this capacity.
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Funding: Fundo de Incentivo à Pesquisa e Eventos do Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre (FIPE/HCPA) e Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa/Brasil (CNPq).
Competing interests: None declared.
Ethics approval: Comitê de Ética em Pesquisa do Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, approval number 01421.
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