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Moral–psychological development related to the capacity of adolescents and elderly patients to consent


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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