India doctor to dissect his father's body

By Habib Beary

Image caption,
Dr Ramannavar (left) says that he was inspired by the English physician William Harvey, famed for his research into the human circulatory system

A doctor in India is steadying his nerves to dissect his father's embalmed body to help anatomy students' research at a medical college.

The operation in the southern state of Karnataka is said to be the first such case in India.

Dr Mahantesh Ramannavar told the BBC that the task was challenging but he had no choice.

His father, who fought against British colonial rule, was a renowned ayurvedic (traditional medicine) doctor.

He died two years ago, aged 89, and stipulated in his will that his corpse should be cut open by his doctor son for medical research.

Better science

Dr Mahantesh, 40, will fulfil his father's wishes at the Kankanwadi Ayurved medical college in Belgaum, 550km (342 miles) north of Bangalore, on the second anniversary of his death on 13 November.

He said that he was inspired by the English physician William Harvey, famed for his research into the human circulatory system.

Mr Harvey is credited with dissecting the body of his sister in his pursuit of better medical science.

"I hope my gesture will help others to donate bodies. This is a message I want to convey to the world," Dr Mahantesh told the BBC.

There is a growing demand for cadavers for medical research and training across the globe.

In front of his father's body, he has been briefing students without much fuss.

"Whatever emotions I have, I control them," he said.

His said that his decision had not upset his mother and family members.

"There is no opposition from my family. They are supporting me. This is because this is what he willed," he said.

Dr Mahantesh said the demand for cadavers was up but donors were hard to come by.

India passed the Human Organ Transplant Act in 1994, making it possible to receive transplants from brain dead donors, but for a country with a population of more than one billion people, it lags behind in the implementation of a cadaveric donation programme.

Officials say there is need for greater public awareness to enable people to donate bodies.

Dr Mahantesh said that his father had always spoken in support of cadaver donations.

"Before his death, he had mentally prepared me to take up the dissection of his body," he said.

The family has set up a trust in his name for cadaver donations.

"All my family members have written wills to donate their bodies," he said.

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