Who makes the call if you fall into a coma?

TO ACT and make decisions on behalf of his bedridden mother, he needed to be legally appointed as the person in charge.

To do this, Mr Hamdan spent more than two years and nearly $10,000 due to the many legal processes involved.

That was nine years ago, before a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) was made available.

Now, anyone who is 21 years old and above can register an LPA for as little as $50.

This allows a person to appoint someone he trusts to handle his personal matters in the event he becomes unable to do so. (See report on right.)

Mr Hamdan's mother slipped into a coma in 2003.

The 39-year-old, who is the eldest of three children, said his mother's condition caused some friction between him and his siblings.

They had disagreed on how her financial and medical matters should be handled. No one had been legally appointed to manage her estate.

Mr Hamdan, who is single, told The New Paper: "My mother had always been quite sickly. She had high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions.

"We admitted her into hospital and she was in a coma for about six weeks."

He said his mother was a divorcee and she had not left them any instructions on what to do should she slip into a coma.

He said: "The doctor asked us what we thought should be done, but none of us was authorised to make any decisions. And when I wanted to make some decisions on our mother's behalf, my siblings would contest them.

"The whole issue created tension between my siblings and me. This wouldn't have happened if there had been an LPA back then."

It became possible for a person to make an LPA when the Mental Capacity Act took effect on March 1, 2010.

In Mr Hamdan's case, he had to go through a long and expensive legal process to be formally appointed as his mother's proxy decision-maker.

He applied through the courts and was appointed as his mother's Committee of Persons only in 2007.

Mr Hamdan's mother came out of her coma, but she was never the same again.

She was bedridden and Mr Hamdan had to hire a maid to take care of her.

In February, Mr Hamdan, who used to work in the service industry, suffered a heart attack while he was in Germany on a work assignment.

He said: "I was taken to hospital and that incident made me think: 'Who will take care of my mum if anything happens to me? What will happen to me?'"

Mr Hamdan decided to make an LPA shortly after and chose a close friend as his proxy decision-maker. He has resigned from his previous job and is now working in sales. His mother died in June.

"I got my LPA after about six weeks and it cost me only about $300.

"It is less stressful after an LPA is done. An LPA is very important, considering what I have been through."

Not common

To date, 2,000 people have made their LPAs.

But in a straw poll of 20 people, TNP found that only four knew what an LPA was.

And those who knew admitted that they had not made theirs.

The most common reason: "I'm still healthy so I'm not too worried about it."

Last weekend, The Sunday Times reported that of those who have signed up, only 4 per cent belong to the 21-to-34 age group.

Mr Gerard Ee, a board member of the Office of the Public Guardian, which maintains the LPA registry, said in a speech last Saturday that the low take-up rates suggested that little inroad has been gained into the mindsets of younger Singaporeans.

Stressing that an LPA is triggered when one loses the ability to make decisions, Mr Ee added: "That can happen in so many different ways: through an illness, or a bad accident. It can affect you at any age... not only when you're a senior."

Lawyer Khoo Aik Yeow said: "If an individual loses mental capacity and did not make an LPA, his family will need to apply to court to have a deputy appointed to take care of his interests."

He said this is likely to be a more cumbersome process and is also likely to cost more in terms of time and other resources.

"It could take a few months before a deputy is appointed. This time lag could be a source of difficulty for the family, particularly for (the) dependants of a sole breadwinner who has unexpectedly lost mental capacity without (making an) LPA."

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