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By News24 Wire

Wire Service

UKZN in dire need of human body donations for studying

During the pandemic, the university had to acquire bodies from other provinces. Covid-19 and online learning present further challenges.


The University of KwaZulu-Natal says it is faced with a critical shortage of human body donations for the use of teaching and learning due to Covid-19.

On Friday, the College of Health Sciences hosted a webinar titled ‘The impact of Covid-19: awareness on body donation at UKZN’, which looked at the processes the university follows to ensure ethical body donation, as well as the protocols it followed during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, the university had to acquire bodies from other provinces.

“One of the key areas we are working on at UKZN is establishing guidelines regulating the transport of human bodies and body parts within and between provinces. This arose as a consequence of us acquiring cadaveric material when we had a critical shortage.

“Although the body donor numbers are increasing, we still have a critical shortage for a sustainable dissection programme,” said Dr Pamela Pillay, a lecturer at the Department of Clinical Anatomy.

Pillay said that the pandemic and online learning presented a unique dilemma for the College of Health Sciences.

“We limit the extent to which images from donations are placed in the public domain, and this includes social media and online learning platforms.

“During Covid-19, this presented a dilemma for academic staff within the discipline because we did not have consent from the body donors to release images on an online learning platform,” she said.

According to Pillay, since 2016, the university receives an average of 28 bodies a year which are donated to them for teaching and research.

Body donors need to sign over written consent for their body to be used.

Celumusa Mbokazi, a senior technician in the clinical anatomy department, explained that donated bodies were excluded on the following grounds:

  • If a postmortem was done on the corpse;
  • If the death occurred during or after a major surgery;
  • An unnatural death, eg, ballistic trauma or a car accident;
  • At the point of death resides outside of the KZN province;
  • Suicide or any criminal cause of death; and
  • If the person died of Covid-19, smallpox, anthrax, and viral hemorrhagic fever.

“For Covid-19, which [are] bodies we don’t accept, for all the bodies we accept they have to be tested for Covid-19, and if the results come back and they are positive, we immediately contact the family and inform them so that they can make funeral arrangements,” said Mbokazi.

Moving forward, Pillay said that they would be moving their body donation campaign to a virtual space like social media, Youtube, and through webinars.

“For us to sustain a successful body donation programme, there will (have to) be an ethical legal and institutional governance that will allow us to have a relationship with donors and their communities,” she said.

“We are trying to bridge the gap of cultural limitation by establishing a relationship and educating communities on the value of body donation. However during the Covid-19 period this has been difficult,” she added.

News24 Wire

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University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)

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