How can I be protected if my deputy or donee abuses his or her powers?

If your deputy or donee abuses his or her powers, you may revoke the Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) when you still have the mental capacity to do so. However, the danger lies in the possibility that during moments when mental capacity is lacking, you may not be aware of any abuse.

To discourage the abuse of power by a donee or deputy, and to punish those who do, the Mental Capacity Act (Chapter 177A) of Singapore (“Act”) criminalises the ill-treatment of a person who lacks mental capacity. Any caregiver, donee or deputy found guilty of such an offence will be imprisoned or, fined or both.

Under the Act, ill-treatment includes the following:

  • physical abuse;
  • sexual abuse;
  • wilful or unreasonable act causing emotional injury or injury to health and/or development;
    • wilful or unreasonable neglect causing emotional injury or injury to health and/or development; and
    • neglect where there is a failure to supply daily necessities such as food, clothing, water etc.

Where abuse is suspected, the Act encourages the reporting of such suspected abuse. Some signs of abuse include:

  • for physical abuse – slapping, hitting and other forms of violence;
  • for sexual abuse – rape, sexual touching and procurement of sexual activities
  • for emotional abuse – intimidation, refusing contact with other people and threats of harm, restraint or abandonment;
    • for financial abuse – financial fraud; and
    • for neglect – ignoring a person’s health or physical care needs, or withholding food, medication or water.

Individuals who suspect that a mentally incapacitated person is being abused can make a report to the Office of Public Guardian, Police or the Family Service Centre.

To encourage the report of suspected abuse, the Act provides whistle-blowing protection. Whistle-blowers will not be named in court proceedings and healthcare workers will not be in breach of their professional ethical codes for reporting suspected abuse when they do so in good faith.

Alleged abuses or misuse of powers will be investigated by the Public Guardian: 

The Public Guardian is supported by the Office of the Public Guardian. Where the Public Guardian finds that the deputy or donee has not behaved in the best interests of a mentally incapacitated person, the Public Guardian may apply to Court to revoke the power of that deputy or donee.

What role can you play?

You may want to advise your loved ones about the risks of abuse and request that they look out for you for instances when you become vulnerable to abuse.

For assistance on abuse of power in LPA, please contact us to make an appointment.

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