The concept of donating one’s body for medical research is gradually gaining acceptance among the people here. Groups of senior citizens have started pledging body.

Recently 46 members of Brindavan Senior Citizen Foundation pledged to donate their eyes and 20 bodies.

A body was donated to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital in 2008. Eyes were harvested from six in the last few years, says R. Parthasarathy, 68, vice-president of the Foundation.

“Each experience taught us a new lesson. The last time eyes were harvested, blood began to ooze from the body as the donor was taking blood thinning medicines. Now, we have begun to collect the medical history of all those who have pledged so that the doctors can come prepared.”

The objective, says P. Hariharan, 82, who is coordinating the initiative, is to help train the future generation of medical professionals. Many of the senior citizens are motivated by a desire to contribute to society.

“Such initiatives will receive a boost if the procedures are simplified and the Government undertakes to transport the body,” he adds.

For S. Raghunathan, 64, a resident of Brindavan Pal Grove at Thondamuthur here, motivation came from his 84-year-old mother who lives with him and has pledged to donate her body.

“I and wife have both pledged to donate our eyes following my mother’s footsteps.”

While awareness on eye donation has increased exponentially in the recent years, several inhibitions still prevent body donations from catching on in a big way, says A. Sridharan, managing director of Covai Property Centre.

“Even if a person is willing to donate body, their heirs or relatives may object to it and insist on performing the last rites. The concept of ‘living will’ (a legal document a person uses to make known her wish on life-prolonging medical treatment) is not well-known in India.”

In case of eye donations, a medical team will come to the house for the purpose. But, in the case of body donation, the family members have to take it to the Government hospital and the medical college. The transportation cost is huge, says Mr. Sridharan.

P. Shanthakumar, founder president of Thozhar Trust, says the trust is creating awareness among elders that the body will be used only for research and academic purposes by students.

“Body can be donated only to Government hospitals. They reallocate it to private medical colleges and hospitals. A Government hospital will normally require 14 bodies a year,” he adds.

A 95-year-old woman’s body was donated to the CMCH on Monday.

Her son V. Jeyaprakash says: “My mother, Sakkubai Ammal, had registered for body donation in February. After she died on Sunday, the body was handed over to the hospital the next day.”

More than 40 others who had done voluntary work with her at an ashram in Salem, have now come forward to donate body.

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