Wednesday, 21 September 2005 06:00

Where the dead teach the living

Written by Arthur Okwemba
Dead bodies may sound useless and a creepy sight to many people, who only hope to meet with their spirits when they too die.

But at the schools of medicines, the death are taking up another valuable function of teaching and helping the living to understand more about themselves and their environment.

In death, as we came to realize, some bodies are acquiring a totally new revered life at institutions such as University of Nairobi's (UoN) School of Medicine, where learning would come to a standstill if dead bodies went on strike or refused to be part of the curriculum.

These bodies are given new names in form on identification numbers, and determine whether one will become a doctor or not.

Sustaining the flow of dead bodies to these institutions, which in turn sustains the flow of new doctors, is however emerging a challenging issue.

With the number of students joining the university through both regular and parallel programmes increasing, demand for dead bodies has too take an upward trend.

The lecturers and students at the varsity wait patiently for people to generously donate their bodies for anatomy studies.

But very few people, steeped deeply cultural believes and fear about the spirits of the death, seem to be contemplating such a move.

At the moment, the university's Anatomy department at Chiromo Campus has four wills of people who have expressed the wish to have their bodies used in research and for study purposes when they die.

Such donations of the entire body, says the chairman of the department, Dr Julius Ogeng'o, are a rare phenomenon. The last time a body was donated to the department was five years ago.

So, with donations remaining a luxury, where do UoN's school of medicine, which use about 50 dead bodies every year to instruct its students, get them?

According to Dr Ogeng'o, most of the bodies they are using now are unclaimed ones sourced from mortuaries located in government hospitals across the country.

Legally, institutions of anatomy like the UoN, with permission from the Minister of Health, are permitted by the Anatomy Act Cap 249 to get unclaimed bodies for anatomy purposes.

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