Durban - The University of KwaZulu-Natal's College of Health Sciences last week held a funeral service for those who had donated their bodies to science. The dedication ceremony honours both the donor and the deceased for their act of donation.
UKZN’s senior lecturer of clinical anatomy, Dr Pamela Pillay, said it’s ceremony where students and staff show their appreciation to the donor. The department invites a non-demoninational religious leader to conduct the ceremony.
Also among the invited guests is the Inspector of Anatomy for KZN, in order to ensure oversight in line with legislation.
Wendy Hutchinson was present at the service to pay her respects to her father, Herbert Saunders, who died in July 2019 at the age of 72. She said her father had chosen to donate his body to science.
"My father was a heart patient and had diabetes. He had a weakened heart valve and died two years ago. My mother is still alive and she has also decided to donate her body when she passes," she said.
Hutchinson said she and her sister have always wanted to donate their organs but after attending the service, they want to follow their dad's path.
She said the fears and concerns they had about the process were eased at the service.
"We were told that only one doctor attends to one body. This was comforting for us. My dad was so brave," Hutchinson said.
Saunders' body will now be cremated and his ashes given to the family.
Speaking to IOL, Pillay said the use of human bodies or cadavers for anatomy teaching and learning is the gold standard in South Africa and worldwide.
She said controversy with the use of unclaimed bodies has resulted in the use of donated bodies only.
"However, critical shortages of cadavers over the years have impacted on anatomy education. In order to bridge the gap with shortages, body donor awareness campaigns are essential," Pillay said.
She said international and national anatomy societies have supported the change from the use of unclaimed bodies to donated bodies. She added that with the changes in legislation and regulations in South Africa, informed consent is a prerequisite for obtaining cadavers.
"During Covid-19, we had to rethink our body donor awareness strategy. Previously, we visit old-age homes and hostels to offer talks and seminars so that people are aware of body donation as an option. We are using online platforms but that’s not really optimal, especially with the elderly not having access to such platforms. Our number of potential donors registering has increased since these campaigns," she said.
You can find more information on how to donate your body here