Forum: More public education on end-of-life planning needed

An elderly goes up the escalator at Ang Mo Kio MRT station on Dec 13, 2018.
An elderly goes up the escalator at Ang Mo Kio MRT station on Dec 13, 2018.PHOTO: ST FILE

It was reported that about $240 million in unclaimed monies was left with the Government over the last six years, with the bulk belonging to people who died without nominating anyone to receive their Central Provident Fund funds (Over $200m in CPF monies with no nomination left unclaimed, Oct 21).

End-of-life planning can be a rather sensitive topic to bring up, but more can be done to integrate and enhance it through inter-agency coordination and greater public-private partnerships with private insurance and funeral companies.

Since 2011, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), together with six hospitals, has enabled Singaporeans to discuss and share their care preferences with their loved ones in advance through an ongoing process of communication.

As Singaporeans discuss their wishes and preferences in their advance care plans, questions about completing legal documents such as the Advance Medical Directive (AMD) and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) may come up.

Hence, any public education outreach programme on end-of-life planning should adopt a more holistic approach and include information not only on the AMD and LPA, but also on the know-how of writing a will, estate planning, CPF nomination, donation of their physical bodies and the Human Organ Transplant Act.

Funerals should also not be left out of the larger conversation. AIC should work more closely with funeral directors to encourage Singaporeans to consider pre-planning their funerals.

A pre-need funeral contract is a mutual agreement between the funeral director and an individual who wishes to make funeral arrangements ahead of his death.

A pre-need agreement not only locks in tomorrow's prices at today's rates, but also enables Singaporeans to exercise greater autonomy over their end-of-life preferences and how they wish to bid farewell to their loved ones.

The Ministry of Education should also consider introducing elective modules in tertiary institutions that increase young Singaporeans' literacy on death, funerals and end-of-life issues, as well as how to go about making end-of-life decisions and speaking to their families about these issues.

By empowering our young and increasing their literacy about end-of-life issues in a safe and conducive environment, they would bring home what they have learnt and share it with their parents and grandparents.

We would then be able to shape more meaningful and holistic end-of-life conversations across the different generations.

Chen Jiaxi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline 'More public education on end-of-life planning needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe