SINGAPORE - With a growing number of elderly without family members, Parliament on Monday (March 14) amended the Mental Capacity Act to allow paid professionals to make key decisions for those who can no longer decide for themselves.
Previously, the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) lets individuals appoint a donee, usually a family member, to decide on their behalf should they lose their mental capacity. Those who have not prepared beforehand can have a deputy appointed by the court.
The new amendments allow those without family or close friends who can act as donees and deputies to have paid professionals exercise that duty.
Referring to elderly without relatives or close friend, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, said in his opening speech in Parliament: "They had worked hard and saved carefully for their old age.
"But they were deeply anxious as they had no suitable person to nominate as their donee ... They did not want to become wards of the State."
The amendment, he said, empowers such elderly to have a choice and to give more complex instructions about their care should they lose mental capacity.
Another key change to the Act grants the court more grounds to revoke or suspend LPAs, to guard against exploitation by donees and deputies.
For example, a deputy or donee can have his powers revoked if convicted for dishonesty or fraud - even if it was against someone other than the person he is acting for.
The court can also suspend the powers of a deputy or donee even if no prior court application has been made.
So a person who has been charged but not convicted yet with an offence can have his powers suspended temporarily to prevent him from dissipating any assets while investigations are ongoing.
Other key changes to the Act include protecting commercial transactions done without knowledge that an LPA has been revoked or suspended, and letting the Public Guardian appoint an auditor to assist in investigations of fraud and exploitation.
The amendments are effective immediately, except for professional donees and donors, which the ministry will consult stakeholders on to develop a registration and regulatory framework.