Voluntary Sterilisation Act passed in parliament
The Voluntary Sterilisation Act or VSA has been passed in parliament.
First enacted in 1969, the Act was last reviewed in 1974.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said with the changes to the healthcare landscape, it's timely to amend the Act now:
"Singapore is working towards becoming a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are therefore making amendments to the provisions in the VSA that may be viewed as potentially discriminatory against disabled persons."
The key change - to align it with the Mental Capacity Act, which came into force on 1 March 2010.
The Health Minister said the decision on whether a person is to undergo sexual sterilisation will be returned to those with mental or hereditary illnesses, but who still have the mental capacity to give their own consent.
If the person lacks mental capacity, the changes give the court power to decide on behalf the individual, said Mr Gan:
"As an additional safeguard, the spouse or parent or guardian will need to apply to the Court for an order to proceed. Similar to the Court's role under the MCA, the Court may then make an order declaring that the treatment is necessary in the best interests of the person. This application will need to be supported by a doctor's report stating that the person lacks mental capacity to give his or her own consent to the procedure, and that the procedure is necessary in the person's best interests."
He added that another amendment - allowing practitioners who are up-to-date in their practice to perform the surgeries:
"The amended VSA will allow registered medical practitioners in a PHMCA-licensed hospital or ambulatory surgical centre to carry out such procedures once they have been credentialed by their institution to do so. The respective institutions will be responsible for ensuring that they only allow medical practitioners who are adequately trained and possess the necessary skills, to carry out such procedures. In the smaller specialist medical clinics, which do not have such a credentialing system, the VSA will still require that such procedures be carried out by certain recognised specialists, such as surgeons, urologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists."
The penalties in the amended Act are also stiffer.
For unauthorised disclosure of confidential information the maximum fine will be raised from $2,000 to $10,000, while the maximum jail term of 12 months remains.
Persons who coerce or intimidate another person to undergo sexual sterilisation can be fined a maximum of $10,000, up from $5,000 before.
Between 2003 and 2011, more than 27,900 people (27,905) underwent voluntary sexual sterilization.
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