SINGAPORE - Licensed funeral parlours here will be held to higher standards by the National Environment Agency (NEA) after a mix-up at a funeral home late last month resulted in a wrong body being cremated.
Operators are to abide by stricter rules, which include locking embalming rooms at all times with access limited to authorised staff, and using body identification tags bearing details such as the name and gender of the deceased.
The tightened requirements were shared in a circular NEA sent last Friday (Jan 10) to the 22 licensed funeral parlours it oversees. The agency licenses funeral parlours with embalming facilities.
The move comes less than two weeks after the body of 82-year-old Kee Kin Tiong was mistakenly cremated on Dec 30 last year ahead of his funeral rites in what is believed to be the first reported case in Singapore of such a mix-up.
The send-off for Kee was done according to Christian traditions and funeral rites when he was a Taoist.
The mistake occurred when an employee of Harmony Funeral Care mistakenly collected Kee's body, instead of that of a 70-year-old man, from the embalming room of Century Products, a funeral parlour with embalming facilities.
Century Products has since had its licence suspended, while Harmony Funeral Care has been barred from using government after-death facilities.
Kee's family members had earlier told The Straits Times they were in "great pain" over the mix-up, and called for the funeral industry to improve its service standards.
NEA director-general of public health Chew Ming Fai said in the circular that the episode highlighted the need to strengthen procedures for the handling of bodies by all parties involved.
"As a licensed funeral parlour, it is your responsibility to ensure that bodies received into the premises are properly accounted for, without mix-up, and are handled in a dignified and respectful manner," he noted, adding that NEA will be following up with inspections to ensure compliance.
The new rules include ensuring that a system is in place to identify each body from the time it is received until the time it departs. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network