A ‘memory lane’ for body donors at Chandigarh institute

By Ritika Jha, IANS
Monday, February 21, 2011

CHANDIGARH - An Asian Games gold medallist, a leading Punjabi litterateur and a top ranking bureaucrat. These three personalities may not have had anything common in their entire life or even met each other, but in their death one thing has unified them - body donation.

Asian gold medallist Ajmer Singh, Punjabi literature legend Santokh Singh Dhir and Haryana’s first chief secretary Saroop Krishen are among the nearly 40 people who have donated their bodies to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) for research.

The Department of Anatomy at PGIMER, to honour the memory of these donors, set up a ‘memory lane’ called ‘Teachers Forever’ as a tribute to these body donors. The lane is a corridor with photographs of the donors.

“These people are immortal. Many generations of students here will get the opportunity to acquire a practical understanding of the subject from their bodies,” Daisy Saini, head of the department of anatomy, told IANS here.

Scarcity of bodies for medical research purposes has become a major concern at most of the medical institutes in the region. However, the team of doctors at PGIMER has not failed to recognize the remarkable contribution made by these people who donated their bodies to the hospital.

Inaugurating the memory lane here Saturday, PGIMER dean Amod Gupta, said: “In a country like ours where surgeons have been facing huge scarcity of organs for transplant, these legends have donated whole of their bodies. I salute them for their contribution towards society.”

Saini said, “Cadaver donation (donation of body) is still a very rare practice in India as the families believe in cremating the body of the deceased in accordance with their religious rituals.

“We have observed that people who have crossed 60 years of age volunteer for cadaver donation. However, their families oppose it as they fear criticism from society. They need to understand that religion teaches us to serve others,” she said.

“When the ultimate end of the body is the same, why not contribute to the expertise of the doctors by donating the body? The doctors will be able to save many lives then,” Saini asserted.

For helping the volunteers in persuading their family members, who attest the donation form as witnesses, the department provides counselling.

Before embalming (the process of chemically preserving) the body, a prayer is said by priests as per the religion of the donor, Saini said.

Body donations at the PGIMER have picked up in recent years. While the anatomy department got four bodies in donation in 2008, the number rose to eight in 2009. In 2010, the figure jumped to 25, Saini said.

“The number of donations has increased mainly because of the improved interaction between the families of the donors and the doctors in the department. The counselling offered by the doctors does away with the concerns of the family members.”

Earlier, PGIMER used to depend on unclaimed bodies lying with the police for use in research.

“However, the unidentified bodies sent to the department by police did not prove to be of much use for research purpose. By the time the body reaches the lab for embalming (after completion of formalities), it already gets four to five days old,” she pointed out.

For promoting cadaver donation in the region, the department has been running three helpline numbers — 9417552145, 9464836422 and 9914700439 — since November 2008.

(Ritika Jha can be contacted on ritika.jha3@gmail.com)

Filed under: Medicine

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