Forum: Standards of after-death facilities and services constantly being improved

Some of the tools used in embalming. Besides pumping the embalming fluid into the deceased, embalmers also make incisions, drain off blood, massage stiffened muscles, trim long nails and hair, clean and dress the body, and apply make-up.
Some of the tools used in embalming. Besides pumping the embalming fluid into the deceased, embalmers also make incisions, drain off blood, massage stiffened muscles, trim long nails and hair, clean and dress the body, and apply make-up.ST PHOTOS: SHINTARO TAY

We refer to Mr Calvin Yang's article (All is not well in embalming world, Dec 15).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) licenses funeral parlours with embalming facilities to uphold environmental hygiene standards. Licensees are to follow sanitary requirements for fittings, furniture and apparatus. They must have proper access controls in the premises, maintain records of bodies handled, and restrict preparation of bodies to the embalming room. This is to ensure proper maintenance of such premises and prevent environmental public health problems or pollution. NEA regularly inspects the 22 licensed funeral parlours with embalming facilities.

Over the past three years where there were about 62,200 deaths, NEA received four feedback cases relating to embalming work. Two cases were about access control and process issues within the embalming room, while one was related to improper disposal of embalming waste. Only one case of feedback was about embalming work done by suspected illegal embalmers, which was found to be unsubstantiated upon investigation.

Beyond environmental hygiene, after-death services should be provided as per religious and cultural practices and preferences, and in a way that accords dignity to the deceased and comfort to the bereaved families. NEA has guidelines for funeral parlours with embalming services to protect the deceased's dignity. In June, NEA issued an advisory to all licensees to reinforce these guidelines and emphasise the importance of safeguarding the deceased's dignity.

As demand for after-death facilities and services grows, NEA is launching five funeral parlour sites for development over the next decade to provide dignified and purpose-built facilities at less remote locations. Recently, NEA also announced Inland Ash Scattering as an additional option for management of cremated human remains.

As for the standards of after-death facilities and services, including embalming practices, we are constantly reviewing our guidelines and requirements with the view to improve them. This year alone, NEA has had nine engagement sessions with the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore. We agree that providing more information is useful, and will work with the industry to do so. If needed, we are also prepared to consider more regulations, but the trade-off of potentially higher cost will have to be carefully assessed. We will continue to work with the industry, in consultation with religious groups, to further develop our after-death industry, while keeping cost affordable and ensuring access to these essential services.

Wong Chiu Ying

Director

Memorial Facilities and Planning Department

National Environment Agency

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2019, with the headline 'Standards of after-death facilities and services constantly being improved'. Print Edition | Subscribe