cheapest funeral in Singapore body donation

Cheapest Funeral In Singapore – Body Donation

I have always wanted to write something about the cheapest way to handle our death in Singapore. I thought that sea burial and inland ash scattering were two of the cheapest methods of handling ashes after cremation. However, I came across the option of body donation to medical schools, a free “funeral” option for individuals. I know that most people will not be able to accept this method but if you are open to the idea plus don’t want to spend money on a funeral, donating your body for science might be for you.

Different Types Of Funerals

First, we need to look at the entire process from when death happens to when we deal with the remains.

  1. Death occurs
  2. Funeral
  3. Dealing with remains

After death happens, depending on the individual’s race and religion, we will have a funeral. Then after the funeral, how we handle the dead bodies is categorised into two mainstream categories, burial and cremation. Under cremation, we then have various methods of managing the ashes.

  • Public/private columbarium
  • Green burial like inland ash scattering
  • Sea burial
  • Keep ashes at home

The costs of the entire funeral can vary greatly, depending on the combination of options selected.

Type Of Funeral Estimated Costs
Land Burial S$140 – S$420 (Aged <10)

S$315 – S$940 (Aged >10)

Cremation S$50 (Aged <10)

S$100 (Aged >10)

Inland Ash Scattering S$320
Sea Burial S$100
Funeral Rites S$4,000 – S$7,000

As you can see, it can cost quite a bit depending on the option you choose. This is what prompted me to research the costs of funerals, for my parents and myself. Most traditional Chinese families cannot do without the “standard 3 – 5 days” of funeral rites so their funeral would cost at least 4 – 5 thousand dollars with everything in.

Donating Your Body For Science And Healthcare

This is when I came across body donations. In order to train our healthcare professionals, they will require anatomically accurate cadavers to be familiar with the human body. Body donations also allow researchers to perform research to discover new findings that can benefit the human race.

Despite having over a thousand deaths a month, the amount of bodies donated for science is very low. In comparison, there are 280 medical students in NUS alone. There are also other medical and allied health facilities that require the use of cadavers.

whole bodies donated for-research education singapore

Source: LiveOn.gov.sg

Donating our bodies might take away a number of bodies for organ transplants but I don’t the idea of making a body donation will become mainstream enough to affect the donation rates in the near future.

Many individuals that sign the pledge to donate their bodies after death are 40 – 60 years old. It would take many decades before the bodies are donated as the average life span is over 80 years. The bodies donated are used for teaching for 18 to 36 months then they will be cremated or can be returned to the family at their request. The institution will arrange and pay for the cost of cremations and sea burial. We get a free funeral, saving thousands of dollars and at the same time, help train future doctors.

How To Go About Donating Your Body

Bodies donated can come from three areas.

  • Unclaimed bodies
  • Donated by NOK
  • Pledged by individual before death

Since we have no control over the first two options, we will just look at the pledging option.

If you are interested in going about donating your body, here are the steps you can undertake to do so.

Organ Donation Pledge Form – Donor

First, we will need to fill up the Organ Donation Pledge Form. Although we are covered under the Human Organ Transplant Act, it does not cover whole body donations. We will need to fill in the MTERA form to pledge our whole body for donation.

It is quite standard to fill up the form but you will need to check the following boxes accordingly.

mtera organ donation pledge form whole body

Source: MTERA Organ Donation Pledge Form

Currently, I can only find instructions to donate our bodies to the Department of Anatomy, NUS. So if any other medical schools do accept whole-body donations, do reach out.

You will also need 2 witnesses to fill up the form with you plus someone to call the National Organ Transplant Unit hotline to collect the body.

Certificate Of Cause Of Death – Donor Family

Once you pass away, we will need a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD) to certify that you are dead. If we are at the hospital, this will be issued for free but if we pass away at home, we will need a doctor to come over to issue the cert at a cost.

We will also need a death cert. From 29 May 2022 onwards, a digital death cert will be automatically generated once the death is certified by a medical practitioner

Deaths at home

Although the whole process of donating your body will not cost any money, you might need to pay for a CCOD if you pass away at home as there isn’t a medical professional at hand to certify the death. It will cost about S$200 – $300 to get this cert.

Month Place Of Death
Medical

Facilities

Home
JAN 2021 1,187 577
FEB 2021 1,124 504
MAR 2021 1,205 557
APR 2021 1,177 599
MAY 2021 1,204 617
JUN 2021 1,157 625
JUL 2021 1,202 623
AUG 2021 1,201 617
SEP 2021 1,218 581
OCT 2021 1,559 769
NOV 2021 1,533 688
DEC 2021 1,322 655
Total 15,089 (62.3%) 7,412 (30.6%)

Source: Singapore Demographic Bulletin

Looking at the statistics, we pass away at home about 30% of the time. The probability of needing to pay for a CCOD isn’t low. However, this applies to all deaths and not just to body donations so we just have to accept it.

Notify NOTU For Collection – Donor Family

The next thing to do would be for our Next-Of-Kin/Hospital to contact the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) at 6222 3222. NOTU will then contact the medical facility accordingly to collect the body for education and research purposes. Once the body has been collected by the medical facility, family members will not be able to view the body.

Handling Of Remains – Donor Family

You will be able to hold a funeral before donating the body. However, we will need to pay for the funeral services. If our purpose is to pay as little as possible after death, we will let them collect the body immediately. We will also need to make a decision on how will the whole body be treated after fully utilizing it (The whole body will be used for 18 to 36 months for education and research.).

If you or your family wants your remains back for cremation or to hold funeral rites after the 18 – 36 months, you will be able to do so, but your family will need to cover the cost of cremation and funeral.

Alternatively, you can let the medical facility cremate the body and do a sea burial at their cost without paying.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Old Do I have To Be To Donate My Body?

You need to be 18 years old and above to pledge your body to research and education.

Can I Change My Mind Regarding Body Donation?

Yes, you will be able to revoke the donation at any moment. However, this can only be done by the donor and family members are not able to object to the decision after the death of the donor. Therefore, it is extremely important that your family is on board with your decision.

Can I Include Sentimental Items With The Cremation?

Yes, you will be able to place personal items with the donors in their coffins before cremation. You will need to contact the staff accordingly in advance.

Can I Conduct Religious Rituals During Cremation/Sea Burial?

Yes, but all ritual and ceremony costs will be borne by the family.

Will My Body Donation Be Rejected?

Your body might be rejected for donation for various reasons like communicable diseases that pose risks to students and staff, bodies that have been autopsied, or for some other reasons, determined by the professionals that the body is unacceptable for donation.

Other Questions

For more details, you can visit the following links

TL, DR

A traditional funeral can cost a lot. An alternative would be to donate your body for science in exchange for a free funeral. Make sure your family is on board with your decision to donate your body as they will not be able to object and they will be the ones to call the organization to collect your body.

I understand this is a controversial topic. Do let me know your comments and thoughts on this matter at consumelesslife@gmail.com.

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