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Daughter pays for parents' good deed

Updated: 2014-12-15 13:36

Daughter pays for parents' good deed

Zhou Songying pays tribute to her parents at a memorial park in Suzhou. [Photo/thepaper.cn]

Zhou Songying moved to her new house on December 9. It is the third time that Zhou's family had to move in the past six years, just to stay away from neighbors' "harsh words and judgmental stares", according to thepaper.cn.

Zhou's parents signed up for body donation in 2002, becoming the first donor couple in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province. Zhou helped donate her father's body when he died on 2006.

"Neighbors and relatives questioned me if I didn't have enough money to afford a decent burial for my father," Zhou said, adding some even asked her to "return the body".

Zhou decided to move, together with her sick mother, to stay away from the criticism. "Some close friends told me not to donate my mother's body, but I said no."

Zhou's mother passed away in 2008. When the donation certificate from the Red Cross was sent to Zhou's new work place, the news spread. Zhou quit her job as a kindergarten teacher not long after that.

"They said I was not a filial daughter because I sold out my parents' bodies," Zhou said. In China, many still believe in the tradition that bodies should remain intact after death.

Zhou said when she signed up for body donation at Suzhou Medical School the same year as her parents did, the receptionist seemed to be shocked and asked her whether she had thought it through because Zhou was 37 then.

"The society was very conservative back then, and some thought I might have some health problems or life-threatening issues," Zhou recollected.

Zhou's 25-year-old daughter, also signed up two years ago, but she has not told her colleagues about it.

Luckily, people's attitude towards body donation has started to change. When Zhou's story was covered by a local newspaper, she has got many calls. Apart from condemnation, there were some "second voices," Zhou said with a relief. Some asked her about the procedure of donating bodies.


Not only donors, the staff working in the body donation field has to fight hard against outdated social and cultural stigma.

"We were often verbally abused and some said we were ominous," said Shao Peiying, vice director of body donation with Suzhou Red Cross.

Things have improved in recent years. According to Shao, more than 2,000 people have registered for body (organ) donations with Suzhou Red Cross since 2005. "There were only 100 at the beginning," said Shao.

The body donation is all voluntary, with each donor receiving a certificate from the Red Cross and their names printed in a memorial park, Zhou Songying said. Memorial ceremonies are held around the Tomb Sweeping Day in April every year.

But thepaper.cn suggested more is needed to be done for the donors. For example, the volunteers should be given more consolations.

In some cities, like Guangdong, donors' family have to pay from their own pocket to ship the body to some specific locations, and in Shanghai, family members usually find an empty room – not even a flower - when they attend the body farewell ceremony.


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