The life and death decisions that give hope to others

SOME people keep on giving, even in death. Teenager Tom Kelly, who was fatally punched in Kings Cross in July, has already given new life to four people, with more to come.

And John Gillard, the Prime Minister's 83- year-old father, has donated his body to science, so students getting the kind of education he passionately believed in will learn from it.

Donating one's body to science after death is completely different to donating organs and tissues for use of a living person. But in each case, it is grieving families who deal with the decisions.

Tom Kelly's father Ralph said yesterday it had been ''very difficult'' deciding to donate Tom's organs, ''but I think in the end we made the right decision''. The recipients of his son's lungs, liver and kidney were ''out of hospital now, and only going back to the clinics to make sure they are OK''. He said he was ''really happy'' about that.

''From my perspective there is a lot of relief that the organ donations didn't fail. The last thing you want is to donate and find it didn't work,'' Mr Kelly said.

Tom's heart could not be transplanted because of the way he died, but his heart valves would be used for up to four babies in the future, Mr Kelly said.

He said the family wanted to do everything it could to encourage organ donation in NSW. The low number of transplants - 77 a year - ''seems ridiculous'', Mr Kelly said.

A notice in Adelaide's Advertiser said Mr Gillard had requested no funeral service.

''John was a humble man who always sought to help others. He died as he lived and has donated his body to science,'' the notice said.

People donating their bodies usually signed a consent form many years before their death, but families could override their wishes if they did not agree, said Wesley Fisk, manager of the Ray Last Anatomy Laboratories at the University of Adelaide.

The bodies are used ''as fully as possible'' for the study of anatomy, for surgical training and for research in the medical and allied health fields. All bodies donated in South Australia are initially stored in the University of Adelaide mortuary and may be transported from there to other universities in South Australia or around the country, depending on need.

Mr Gillard's decision will likely inspire others. Mr Fisk did not refer to Mr Gillard's case. Speaking generally, he said a newspaper article or radio interview on donating bodies always resulted in a surge in interest. ''It is amazing, the huge number of consent forms that are sent out after that.''

The medical and allied health fields have been among the fastest growing courses since the Labor government moved to increase access to universities, resulting in a 27 per cent increase in places since 2007.

There has been a marked increase in demand for bodies as a result of increased student numbers, Mr Fisk said.

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