Testamentary capacity and aphasia: A descriptive case report with implications for clinical practice

Document Type

Journal Article


Taylor and Francis


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Ferguson, A., Worrall, L., McPhee, J., Buskell, R., Armstrong, E., & Togher, L. (2003). Case study testamentary capacity and aphasia: A descriptive case report with implications for clinical practice. Aphasiology, 17(10), 965-980.


Background: Testamentary capacity (the capacity to make a will) is recognised in the literature as an important issue for speech‐language pathologists' assessment of people with aphasia, but current guidelines for clinical practice lack an empirical base. Aims: The research aimed to suggest some guidelines for clinical practice based on information considered relevant for the court in determining testamentary capacity. Methods & Procedures: A recent legal case involving a challenge to the will of a woman with severe aphasia was critically examined with reference to current guidelines in the literature regarding assessment of testamentary capacity. Outcomes & Results: Examination of the information available on the case indicated that the judge gave priority to accounts of the everyday communication of the person with aphasia (including reported discourse samples) over the information provided by expert medical witnesses. The extent to which communication effectiveness could be maximised was found to be a matter of key significance to the determination of capacity. Conclusions: This study has implications for speech‐language pathologists' assessment practices and reports, as well as for scope of practice with regard to legal decision making of people with aphasia. These issues are discussed in relation to the World Health Organisation's ICF framework of functioning for social participation.





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