Mental Capacity Act

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Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act was passed in 2008 in Parliament so that Singaporeans can appoint proxy decision-makers before they become mentally incapacitated by illnesses like dementia or brain damage. The Act, which came into force on 1 March 2010, is broadly modelled on the UK’s own Medical Capacity Act 2005 (Gillespie, 2010) and individuals can do so through a new statutory mechanism called "Lasting Power of Attorney" or LPA – which enables adult individuals to prospectively appoint one or more persons they trust, to act and make decisions in their best interests, in the event that they should lose mental capacity (MCYS 2010). Many have welcomed it as a timely measure to address the social realities of a fast ageing population in Singapore. But the significance of the Act is more than a social legislation; it is also for the citizens to appreciate the essential value of the Act as an affirmation of: (i) respect for an individual’s autonomy, (ii) empowerment, and (iii) universality. (MCYS 2010)

The Act enables people to plan ahead and gives them the power to make choices for their future before they lose their mental capacity (MCYS 2010). The Act applies to everyone who deals with a person over 21 years old who lacks mental capacity to make specific decisions (MCA 2008). Doctors have often make decisions on behalf of patients who are not able to do so either because of their mental or intellectually disabilities, and this new legislation clarifies this approach in the form of statute law (Gillespie, 2010).

With the new Act in place, it poses some medical and legal challenges (Chan 2010). The Act is a piece of legislation that deserves serious ethical attention, but much of the commentary on the Act has focussed on its legal and practical implications rather than the underlying ethical concepts (Hope, Slowther & Eccles, 2009). Hope, Slowther & Eccles (2009) highlighted the fact neither the Act nor its Code of Practice provides sufficient



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