Young people are more likely to accept donation
As the New Year comes, many young people are buying gifts, but Geng Yingying is thinking about a serious subject－death. A healthy 21-year-old student at Northwest Normal University in Gansu province, Geng signed documents to donate her body for medical research and education because she wants to leave a legacy to the world after her death. She first learned about body donation through a volunteer activity in 2016. Not long after that, one of her friends died in an accident.
"I realized life is vulnerable and I wanted to make it more meaningful," she says. Geng is among a growing number of young Chinese who have registered as voluntary body donors in recent years. The number of registered volunteers for body and organ donations was 2,610 in Gansu by Nov 20, compared with just 80 in 2014, according to the statistics released by the local Red Cross Society.
The Beijing arm of the Red Cross reported that, by 2017 over 21,100 people applied to donate their cadavers since the city started a body donation registry in 1999. Over 2,600 donations have been used for medical research and education in that time.
Zhan Haibing, a postgraduate student in the School of Public Health at Lanzhou University, refers to cadavers as "silent teachers": "They have played an irreplaceable role in medical education and research. They give medical students a real understanding of the human body."
China's body donation program started in the early 1980s. The Chinese have traditionally held that a person's body should remain intact because they believe there is an afterlife, and they see a traditional burial as an obligation of filial piety toward their elders.
Voluntary body donation in China needs consent from an executor who must be a direct relative of the donor. Geng's decision to donate her body was strongly opposed by her parents, but she convinced them to support her. Her brother even signed as her executor. As the laws and the overall environment for donation continue to improve, and people's attitudes to funeral customs gradually change, body donations have become more acceptable.