KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's first pair of donated cadavers were given a grand send off by their loved ones and the doctors who practised on them at the University Malaya Medical Centre.
Cancer patients Lim Kian, 67, and Low Siew Yeok, 47, had pledged their bodies to science in order to help doctors save other patients.
But more than just teaching surgical skills, “Silent Mentors” Lim and Low taught the doctors precious humanistic values.
The Silent Mentor programme, announced by Universiti Malaya in March this year, is based on the Taiwanese Tzu Chi University's programme with the same name where members of the public may pledge their bodies to be used for medical training and research after their death.
Cadavers are used for a three-day workshop, after which they will be cremated and the remains placed at a memorial hall.
“Conducting surgery on someone you do not know is not the way for doctors to express their humanity,” said Prof Dr Chin Kin Fah, director of UMMC's Minimally Invasive Laparo-Endoscopic Surgery (MILES) training centre.
“The programme insists that students get to know their Silent Mentors inside out to cultivate a caring and loving attitude.
“At the end of the workshop, participants take part in a small ceremony to show their gratitude to their Silent Mentors for teaching them,” said Dr Chin, adding that the programme would not turn away any donor, including those with cancer and physical deformities.
The programme is a collaboration between UM, Tzu Chi University and funeral services provider Xiao En Group.
MILES manager Sia Thiam Eng said about 25 bodies had been pledged to the programme, while 160 others had expressed their wish to be part of it.
“This is the best platform for doctors to acquire surgical skills because the Silent Mentors are in better condition than other cadavers, which are usually unclaimed bodies. But the main aim is to teach participants medical humanistic values,” said Sia.
For Segamat native Lim's children, their father's decision to donate his body to the cause was his “greatest act of charity”.
“We are very proud of him,” said eldest son Tian Tsyh, 42, after the memorial service yesterday.
He said his father, who died on June 2 after battling rectal cancer for over a year, was actively involved in charity such as donating blood and volunteering at recycling campaigns.
“Although he was not highly educated, he became a teacher to doctors in the end,” added Lim's son-in-law Tan Ching San, 45.
Tan said he and Lim learned about the programme after watching a television documentary about it last year.
“He was taken in by the show and said he wanted to donate his body, but there was no such programme in Malaysia then,” said Tan.
After Lim was admitted to the hospital for the second time in February, Dr Chin approached the family to inform them of the option of donating Lim's body to science and Lim agreed.
“Dr Chin fully explained all the aspects of being a Silent Mentor and we agreed it was a good programme.
“He told us the body would be treated with the utmost care and funeral preparations would be taken care of,” Tan said.
UMMC and Xiao En Group also provide the Silent Mentors a special memorial site at the Nilai Memorial Park for their ashes to be interred.