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The concept of competence is central to healthcare because informed consent can only be obtained from a competent patient. The standard approach to competence focuses on cognitive abilities. Several authors have challenged this approach by emphasising the role of emotions and values. Combining cognition, emotion and values, we suggest an approach which is based on the notion of practical wisdom. This focuses on knowledge and on determining what is important in a specific situation and finding a balance between various values, which are enacted in an individual's personal life. Our approach is illustrated by two cases of patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder.