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Cadaver shortage hits Jorhat hospital

Jorhat, March 19: Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) is suffering from an acute shortage of cadavers in the absence of a proactive role of the government in encouraging people to pledge their bodies for scientific research.

JMCH medical officer Anader Neog said the scarcity had resulted in 20 to 30 students sharing one body in dissection classes.

“It is best when one cadaver is shared among six to eight students. But now the position is such that 20 to 30 students dissect one body. In the beginning, when classes started, we could only procure some body parts from the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH),” he said.

Neog added that since it was illegal to use bodies that remained unidentified in the morgue, this had compounded matters. “There are many such bodies which are found lying around and brought to the morgue. But we cannot use them in practical classes without a high court order, and no one has the time to go to court and bring such orders,” Neog said.

On the other hand, Ellora Vigyan Mancha, an NGO that promotes body and organ donation, is still waiting for state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to fulfil a promise that he had made over four years ago in the state Assembly — government medical colleges would pay for transportation of the donated bodies from their homes.

Ellora Vigyan Mancha joint secretary Ishvaku Rahman said since the NGO came into being on May 15, 2004, 452 bodies had been pledged in the state and 23 had been donated — 19 to GMCH, three to Assam Medical College and Hospital and that of Abani Kumar Goswami to JMCH last month.

He said more people would have come forward to pledge their bodies had the government played a more proactive role. “On coming to know about the pitiful condition of relatives who themselves had to go and give up the bodies of loved ones to the medical college at Guwahati, Sarma had made a speech on March 13, 2008, that from now on, the transportation cost of the body would be borne by the hospital authorities. This is yet to be implemented. Moreover, he had said the registration cost of the will to pledge the body would also be borne by the government. But nothing has been done yet,” Rahman said.

To highlight the plight of relatives, Rahman cited the case of Rohiteswar Handique, who died on February 27.

Late Handique’s son, Robert, blamed the Mancha for not taking the responsibility of transporting the body to the hospital. “My father had donated his corneas to Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya and they took away the corneas after they were informed. But we did not get any response from the Mancha despite my father having pledged his body at their behest,” he said.

“We informed the Mancha because the time was such that we were all heartbroken and the frame of mind we were in did not allow us to take the body to GMCH. But as they did not take the responsibility, we cremated my father,” he said.

Rahman said it was not the Mancha’s responsibility to transport bodies to hospitals. “We only encourage people to donate and try to create a society where people are open to the idea,” he said.

“My wife Ellora Raichoudhury was the first woman in the state to donate her body while undergoing treatment for cancer in a hospital in the south in 2001-02. At that time Binoy Choudhury, a Bengal minister, had also donated his body and that had made big news. All this had inspired her. She died on May 15, 2003, and the Mancha was born on her death anniversary on May 15, 2004,” Rahman said.

The Mancha holds awareness campaigns to foster scientific temperament to aid research. It now has 10 branches in Jorhat, Mariani, Sivasagar, Digboi, Doomdooma, Biswanath Chariali, Nagaon, Bongaigaon, Guwahati and Pathsala.