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  • Writer's pictureL.J. Singh

Disposal of My Dead Body

Updated: May 9, 2021

In the Merchant Navy services, while signing up on a ship, details of the one of the next kin have to be given, who can be informed, in case of any mishap or death on board. As the protocol, I supplied the requisite details and also put a request for sea burial to my body, if my death occurs at sea. But luckily, I never faced any moment like that as I left my sea services 10 years before my superannuation, due to some domestic reasons.

In 2008, when I turned 72, I realized that my father and grandfather had died at this age. And to leave no loose end, I began to wind up my affairs, so that there are no unnecessary problems left for my family to deal with after my demise. After the long successful sea services, the most important task in hand for me before the call from yonder wasn’t writing of my Will, perhaps, it was the disposal of my dead body.

As my sea burial was not possible now, I remembered the noble cause of donating a dead body and its useable organs. Eye donation is now not uncommon but donation and receipt of other parts like kidneys or liver are now in full purview of the law. Prejudice and sheer ignorance are seen operating when it comes to the issue of disposal of a dead body. Maximum deaths indeed occur on the road in our country and hence the circumstances are so panicky that there is hardly any opportunity of consulting the next of kin of the deceased. But in families where longevity runs in full measure, it is imperative for those sitting in the departure lounge to declare in writing how they would like to dispose of their dead body.

However, one does not have to be an intellectual to visualize the relative risks involved in cremation vis-a-vis firewood cremation, which is the popular mode in India. It is also a question of one's disillusionment if it happens like I was impressed when I followed the funeral of a neighbour, Basant Singh Hanspal a few years ago. Strangely it was rather a long procession of walkers, scooterists, bikers, and four-wheelers proceeding not to the cremation grounds but my surprise to Medical College Hospital Vallah, in Amritsar. The deceased was a very well-known social worker who spent his whole life liberating society from superstition, dogma, intolerance, and illiteracy. In his lifetime, he had declared in writing his willingness not to burn or bury his dead body but to hand over it to the medical fraternity in whatsoever way, they wish to use it. I therefore also decided to follow this example.

Unfortunately, in my service career having been offshore for decades, I was neither a known social figure nor a VIP. What is a chief engineer before illiterate masses? To cap it I didn't know the official or bureaucratic procedure. Nor did I know the location of different offices. My thorough gentleman friend, Prof. Mohan Singh, came to my help. In fact, we helped each other, because he shares my views on this issue. Donating my dead body to the hospital for the medical students' experiment, was an easy answer but this is where I faced a hurdle from my own family. My younger son, with whom I am residing after leaving my job, became quite emotional and was reluctant to sign the required affidavit for dead-body donation as if I was asking them to sign my death warrants.

My elder son who lives in Pune agreed and signed the requisite No Objection form. But even after that, the legal adviser to 'Bhai Ghanaiya Charitable Society', an NGO, which was to take the cadaver to medical college hospital at Vallah in Amritsar, advised me to get my affidavit registered with the Executive Magistrate' office. My same friend Prof. Mohan Singh accompanied me to that office, where I was to get my affidavit attested. On arrival there, we found a long queue waiting for their turns, my friend suggested that we both can take turns standing in the queue if required. When the legal adviser, whose office was also nearby, came and saw me standing in the long queue, not of the body donators, but for getting some other work done. He offered to prioritize me over others who were standing in the same long queue for endless hours. I respectfully declined the kind offer to get any preference over others, respecting the rights of others who were ahead of me.

Here from my personal experience, I must mention how our doctors can play a vital role in boosting the moral of a patient to fight health problems. Just like in my case, when I was 83, I had severe pain in my knee, the Orthopedic, Dr. Ravipal Singh, after seeing the X-ray of my both knees, made quite an encouraging comment on the health condition of my bones comparing them with that of just forty years old person. He remarked this when I told him that this knee problem has forced me to forego my addiction of taking long walks, a practice I follow religiously even more after retirement. Now I just hope that the doctor who cuts up my cadaver can confirm that many organs of the mind like kidneys, heart, and eyes are quite healthy for transplantation.

"Pandemic permitting and Covid-19 sparing me if some organs are usable, my last wish is that my eyes may give sight to someone to see the sunrise, kidneys can drain poison of urea from another's body, and my heart can go to one who has known the agony of heart. If these wishes of mine become a reality, it will be like living-for-ever."

Here are some of the state-authorized organ donation centre which you can contact, if you wish to donate your organs-

Written By-

Lal Singh

Retd. Chief Engineer (IMN)

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