Forum: Mental Capacity Act needs to be enhanced

It is heartbreaking to read about the tragic case of Tan Tian Chye (Man who killed mentally ill daughter freed from jail after sentence backdated, Oct 13).

Based on what was reported, my first response was: "If only the daughter agreed to the treatment recommended, the outcome would likely be a happier one."

Although Part III of the Mental Capacity Act caters for some actions to be taken in connection with the care and treatment of persons with mental disorders, this case clearly shows that the law is not comprehensive enough to ensure that the treatment be given.

How can we expect a person who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder to solely decide that he has the right to accept or refuse treatment, when the refusal of such treatment can result in physical and psychological harm to family members?

Should the Act be enhanced to make treatment (including admission to an appropriate care facility) compulsory for such severe cases?

Looking at Tan's case, the parents were the real victims and should be considered vulnerable adults suffering from physical and psychological abuse from their daughter under the Vulnerable Adults Act.

They were incapable of protecting themselves from the abuse and unreasonable control by their daughter. They were the ones who needed protection orders.

Why was the abuse not detected and addressed at that time?

Feedback from the ground suggests that such cases are not uncommon.

It seems to suggest that there is weakness in early detection and diagnosis, lack of access to high-quality care, and lack of progressive policies and practices.

These are the same kinds of challenges facing Singapore as it strives to become a more dementia-inclusive society, as reported in the global dementia innovation readiness index by the US-based Global Coalition on Aging, Britain-based Alzheimer's Disease International and Singapore's Lien Foundation.

This suggests that such shortfalls may be systemic issues across the national healthcare infrastructure, particularly in senior and mental health care.

As the percentage of those with mental illness rises in an ageing population, where elderly parents are forced to look after adult children with mental illness, I urge the Government to address the issues quickly, seriously and holistically.

Lee How Teck

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2020, with the headline Forum: Mental Capacity Act needs to be enhanced. Subscribe