Wrong body cremated: NEA lifts curbs on Harmony Funeral Care, Century Products Company

Instead of a coffin, an urn sits on a small table at the wake of the late Kee Kin Tiong on Jan 3, 2020. Mr Kee’s body had been cremated at another man’s funeral after a mix-up by an employee of Harmony Funeral Care. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (Feb 13) lifted its curbs on two local undertakers that sent the wrong body for cremation.

Funeral services firm Harmony Funeral Care will be able to use the after-death facilities at Mandai Crematorium and Choa Chu Kang Crematorium and Cemetery again, and funeral parlour Century Products Company's licence is no longer suspended.

The move came after the two companies took measures to ensure proper identification for bodies throughout the funeral process.

Century Products Company, which had embalming facilities where the bodies were kept, has complied with the NEA's stipulations on maintaining a register to track the movement of bodies in and out of its company premises.

The company has also put in place a system to identify bodies received and removed from their premises, with controlled access in and out of the premises as well.

But further enforcement action will still be taken by the NEA against Century Products Company for not keeping proper records of bodies, under a violation of the Environmental Public Health (Funeral Parlours) Regulations. For failing to maintain proper records, the company could be fined $1,000 for its first offence, or $2,000 for any subsequent offence.

The cremation mix-up occurred on Dec 30 last year, when an employee of Harmony Funeral Care sent the body of the late Mr Kee Kin Tiong, 82, to Mandai Crematorium for a cremation attended by different family, instead of the body of a 70-year-old man.

Mr Kee was then cremated according to Christian funeral rites, when the man was in fact a Taoist.

Following the incident, the NEA on Jan 4 barred Harmony Funeral Care from using the Government's after-death facilities at Mandai Crematorium and Choa Chu Kang Crematorium and Cemetery after the funeral services company was found not to have put in place sufficient measures to ensure the proper handling of the body.

At the time, the NEA also suspended the licence of Century Products Company for not keeping proper records of bodies received or removed from the premises.

In January, the Kee family engaged Mr Andrew Wong and Mr Patrick Tan from Fortis Law to serve legal letters on Harmony Funeral Care; a Harmony employee named Mr Nicholas Ang Kai; Century Products Company; and Tan Khiam Soon Undertaker, demanding public apologies and compensation.

NEA has since conducted a series of interviews and spot checks on both Century Products Company and Harmony Funeral Care.

"Through these submissions, interviews and inspections, NEA is satisfied that the required measures have been put in place in both companies and their staff are adequately trained to prevent re-occurrence of a similar lapse," said the NEA in a statement on Thursday.

"Following the lifting of the suspension and debarment respectively, NEA will place Century Products Company under close surveillance to ensure that they are putting into practice what they have submitted in their plan."

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