Man’s will: Don’t bury me, donate my body to varsity

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 00:00 |
John Kihiu with his wife Mary Njeri during an interview in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/TABITHA MBATIA

Death has always been considered a morbid topic that many do not wish to plan for or even discuss. 

In a culture that considers making end of life plans taboo, John Kihiu Nduku has shocked his family and residents of Githaruru village, Kiambu county, by declaring that he should not be buried when he dies.

 In a will dated August 5,  2019, Kihiu has expressed his decision to bequeath his body to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) to be used for medical research.

Kihiu, 87, says that he reached the decision to donate his body for the study of human anatomy as a sign of gratitude to doctors and appreciation to the efficacy of modern medicine. 

Tough decision made 

The father of six was diagnosed and treated for asthma at Gatundu Level Five Hospital in February last year. He had  struggled with the condition which had gone undiagnosed for 30 years.

He was admitted to hospital where he lay unconscious for two weeks  and on waking up, he reached the decision. 

“I woke up and found about 10 doctors surrounding my bed. I was overjoyed because they had treated me for a condition that had caused me agony and wondered what I could do to express my gratitude.

After thinking about it, I decided to donate my body for medical research,” he says.

In the will witnessed by James Kibe Kibathi and Emmanuel Njau Kiarie, Kihia declares upon his demise a funeral service to be conducted by PCEA clerics and the body is handed over to the university. 

He has handed over a copy of his will to the institution and informed the government of his decision through the Gatundu Deputy County commissioner in a written document.

“I do declare this my last will was executed by me voluntarily when in good state of mind and health and represent my true wishes as to the way my body should be disposed in case of my demise,” reads part of the will. 

He also curses anyone who will dispute his will. His wife Mary Njeri, says initially she was shocked about his decision but has since accepted it and will help him fulfill his wishes. 

Kihiu worked as a long distance driver with KENATCO Transport Company for over 40 years traversing countries in East and Central Africa including Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The octogenarian first left the village in 1957 to work as a gardener for a white man. He also doubled up as a Mau Mau informer against the colonialists. 

Later, he trained as a mechanic and driver before kicking off his career. Kihiu is still undergoing treatment for Asthma and says that his health has been deteriorating.

He carries an inhaler with him and says that lately he has been visiting the hospital for regular injections due to a congested chest. 

Competent witnesses

In Kenya, under Chapter 249 of the 1967 Anatomy Act only specific institutions are authorised to anatomically examine a dead body. 

The minister may issue a license to a medical practitioner, medical officer, teacher of medicine or surgery and a medical student to examine a body anatomically in an approved school of anatomy. 

Any  unlicensed person who receives a body for anatomical examination is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand shillings or a term not exceeding one year or both.  

The law, under Health Act of 2017 also allows Kenyans to donate their organs upon death through a will or oral statement made in presence of two competent witnesses. 

In the absence of a will, the spouse or spouses, elder child, parent, guardian, eldest brother or sister in the specific order mentioned upon that person’s death may donate the body or specific tissue to a person or institution.

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