High Court revokes LPA, says woman signed under 'undue pressure' from doctor son

Court documents reveal an acrimonious relationship between the man and his family.
Court documents reveal an acrimonious relationship between the man and his family.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A general practitioner, who nursed grievances against his parents for forcing him to study medicine, took his mother to sign a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) five days after learning of his father's plans to do so.

At a psychiatrist's clinic in June 2015, the woman, then 58 and suffering from dementia, appointed her only son as her donee, giving him the power to make decisions and act on her behalf if she loses mental capacity.

However, a High Court judge on Tuesday (July 6) allowed an appeal by the woman's husband and two daughters to revoke the LPA.

In a written judgment, Justice Choo Han Teck concluded that while the woman had the mental capacity at the time to execute the LPA, she had probably done so under undue pressure from her son.

As the woman now lacks mental capacity, the judge said the family should apply for a deputy to be appointed under the Mental Capacity Act.

If none of them are found to be suitable, a professional deputy may be appointed by the court.

In his judgment, Justice Choo considered the history of acrimony between the son and his family and text messages showing the heated disputes over who should care for the woman.

Justice Choo expressed doubts about the son's claims that he had reconciled with his mother in 2014, especially when she was showing signs of cognitive impairment. He also found it odd that the son insisted on caring for his mother at this juncture.

The judge said the son's rush to execute the LPA seemed to be motivated by animosity towards his family, and suggests that he had pressured his mother into her decision.

The judge added that when the son told his mother he would have to "leave without her" if she did not tell the psychiatrist she wanted him to care for her, the woman would have felt pressured to appoint him as her donee, lest she be left at the clinic.

The woman, now 64, and her husband, 65, are former Tamil-language teachers. Their son is 38 years old, while their two daughters are aged 34 and 28.

The parties were not named in the judgment.

Court documents reveal an acrimonious relationship between the man and his family.

The son stopped talking to both his parents at the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011.

In a long, vitriolic e-mail in November 2012, he blamed his father for preventing him from studying liberal arts overseas, and making him study medicine at a "third rate" local university instead.

He said in the e-mail that with his IQ of 160 to 180, there were only 340 to 350 people in the world who were as smart as or smarter than him.

"Instead of working and teaching at a top, internationally renowned university, I am a no-name Dr in Singapore," the e-mail said.

The son was also angry that his father had taken a loan for his medical education and expected him to pay it back.

"You didn't just deny me a future. You denied the world someone truly gifted. I wouldn't curse a father like you on anyone," he said.

He also told his youngest sister in November 2013 on Facebook: "I have very strong valid reasons to hate your parents; they made me live like a pauper, pay for my own uni."

On June 25, 2015, he learnt that his father intended to obtain an LPA for his mother.

Five days later, he went to the psychiatrist, picked from his shortlist, who had given him the "earliest appointment" to assess his mother's capacity for the LPA.

In January 2016, the son said in an affidavit that his relationship with his mother fully mended in 2014 after "many heart-to-heart conversations".

In March 2017, the father and two daughters, represented by lawyer Suresh Damodara, applied to revoke the LPA, arguing that the woman lacked mental capacity.

Several relatives filed affidavits to support the son, with one aunt saying that the challenge to the LPA was filed "out of spite".

After the challenge was dismissed by a district judge, the father and daughters appealed to the High Court.