Inflation and rising real estate prices have led to an unexpected windfall for the medical community in Kerala. More and more people are now donating their bodies for research.
Dearth of bodies used to be a serious concern for medical researchers until some time ago. But body donation requests have doubled in recent months, especially in Thrissur, Kochi and Kozhikode districts.
"On an average, Thrissur Medical College receives 15 applications every month for donating bodies," a professor of the medical college said on condition of anonymity.
Getting a vault in an up-market cemetery can cost almost Rs 2 lakh. Often, bookings have to be made in advance. A coffin can cost anything between Rs 3,000 and R20,000, depending on the quality of wood.
"What is the point of getting decayed in vaults or burnt in crematoria, that too after paying a good amount. Even after death, our body should serve others," said Sister Jesme, retired principal of St Mary's College, Thrissur.
Sister Jesme donated her body to Thrissur Medical College last month. "Like this, even after death one can serve humanity," she said.
Sherly Vasu, a forensic expert at Thrissur Medical College, said the trend was started by Tamil superstar Kamal Hassan.
"Last year, five members of a family filled in their body-donation forms following in their heart-throb Kamal Hassan's footsteps," said Vasu, who has also penned a book titled Postmortem Table.
Relatives, however, often refuse to part with the bodies, fearful that they may be inviting trouble by not performing the last rites of their loved ones.
"Religious and social bottlenecks still remain. We need greater awareness about donating bodies," Vasu said. Atheists and communists are doing this discreetly.
"In such cases, bodies can be handed over to hospital after religious rites," Sister Jesme said.