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Doctors are sometimes faced with adult patients who lack the mental capacity to consent to treatment. In a questionnaire, 120 doctors in a district general hospital were asked what action they would take if such a patient had a clear need for elective treatment. Of the 89 who replied, 57 said they would seek consent from relatives or others; 11 of these, nevertheless, stated that treatment could proceed without such consent. These results, and inquiries about other options, pointed to widespread misunderstanding of the law. In English law, no one can give legally valid consent on behalf of another adult. When an individual is unable to give consent, common law allows a doctor to protect a patient's best interests by treating him or her in accordance with a responsible body of medical opinion.