AIIMS Bhopal is running campaigns to encourage citizens to pledge their bodies for medical research

A recent campaign by the newly-inaugurated All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bhopal saw 55 people pledging their bodies for medical research. It is a positive development since even public medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh find it difficult to arrange cadavers for research purpose.

At an event organised recently at the college, the donors were felicitated and counselled. They were assured that their bodies would be handled with reverence and that their families would face no problem in getting a death certificate from the local authorities. AIIMS Bhopal Director Sandeep Kumar explained that the transportation of the body from the place of death to the hospital would be taken care of by AIIMS. “If the donor dies far away from Bhopal, we can contact the nearest government medical college and arrange for them to accept the cadaver,” he added.

One of the donors, S.K. Saraswat, president of the Senior Citizens Forum (SCF), told The Hindu that for years he and his friends had struggled to help those who wanted to donate their bodies as medical colleges did not have the required facilities.

“Most government medical colleges in the State do not even have eye donation units. Very often families have to take the body back as hospitals don’t accept bodies of people who have donated or lost an organ. In Mumbai, there are skin banks which can at least harvest the skin. We need similar facilities in Madhya Pradesh. The government also needs to amend the rules so that eye donation can be done without family consent,” Mr. Saraswat said.

Cadavers need to reach the hospital within eight hours of death. For harvesting the eyes, the body must reach within six hours. Most medical colleges use unclaimed bodies from municipal mortuaries for research. Public colleges pass on surplus cadavers to private colleges.

 “With improvement in communication and technology, the number of unclaimed bodies has greatly reduced. The ideal ratio of cadavers to students is one cadaver for 8 to 10 students. Most government colleges have a current ratio of one cadaver for 20 to 30 students. In private colleges, the situation is much worse,” Sunita Athavale, Associate Professor of Anatomy at AIIMS, said.

After awareness campaigns in Gujarat in 2009, followed by Maharashtra, both the States saw an increase of body donors. By 2010, Gujarat had surplus cadavers. AIIMS is attempting to encourage such a trend in Madhya Pradesh, where cases of smuggling cadavers to private colleges have been reported.

The SCF had organised a donor camp recently in which 200 people turned up. But many of their families later refused consent on religious grounds. Mr. Saraswat said that convincing families is the toughest part.

Akansha Kandya, hailing from Bhopal but now settled in Lucknow, turned up with her parents at the AIIMS for the programme. All three of them pledged their bodies. “My life and body is my property and I want to put it to the best possible use. My family does not care for superstitions as this is an act that will help others,” she told after submitting the pledge forms.