KOLKATA, 22nd January, 2010 : In the quarter century from 1985 when it was set up, to Sunday, when Jyoti Basu died, Gana Darpan, the NGO co-ordinating body donations in Kolkata, had facilitated about 1,400 donations — one about every seven days.
In the two days between Basu’s death and the handing over of his body to SSKM Hospital for research, the NGO received calls and visits from over 300 people wanting to donate their bodies. The donation of his body by contemporary Bengal’s tallest leader has triggered unprecedented interest and given fresh impetus to the trend, said Brojo Roy of Gana Darpan.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, Kolkata mayor and head of Gana Darpan, said: “Nobody gains anything by cremating or burying the body. We ask people to donate their bodies so that they can be used for medical research or for organ transplantation. In Basu’s case, organ transplantation was not possible as he died of cardiac failure. But the donation of his body by a towering personality like Basu is very inspiring for people. His act has received a huge response from several states of the country.”
Before Basu, CPI(M) state secretary Anil Biswas and land and land reform minister Binoy Chowdhury had donated their bodies to Gana Darpan, which the NGO handed over to Kolkata’s NRS Hospital. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Politburo member Biman Bose, CPM state secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty, and mayor Bhattacharya himself have pledged their bodies to the organisation.
Actor Rupa Ganguly and authors Sunil Gangopadhyay and Syed Mustafa Siraj have made similar pledges.
The famous 95-year-old body that has provided the latest spurt to body-donation, however, is now just a number at SSKM. “In medical research, ethically, we cannot divulge whose body is being dissected or whose skeleton is being used in teaching. The serial number of Basu’s body will remain confidential forever,” said the hospital’s Head of the Anatomy Department, Dr Asish Kumar Dutta.
It was reliably learnt, however, that Basu’s body will not be dissected. Efforts are on to preserve the organs, if possible. The skeleton will be retained in the hospital’s anatomy museum as an anonymous specimen.
A body normally cannot be dissected after 48 hours of death, doctors at SSKM said. Basu passed away before noon on Sunday; the body reached the hospital only on Tuesday evening. “We were earlier told that his body would be dissected. On Tuesday, we were told that dissection was not possible, and the skeleton would be preserved,” said a first-year student at SSKM on condition of anonymity.
“For dissecting a body, proper embalming is most important. It must be done as soon after death as possible, but definitely within 24 hours,” Dr Dutta said. “In Basu’s case embalming began 55 hours after death. We have started the procedure, but we need three days before we can decide if the body is suitable for dissection. If it isn’t, we will take the skeleton out,” he added.