Belief in Ancestors Makes Black Africans Reluctant to Donate their Bodies for Research – Doctoral Study Finding
Culture, religion and belief in ancestors are major factors causing Black African people to be unwilling to donate their bodies for medical research.
This is according to a PhD thesis completed by Dr Brenda Zola De Gama titled: “Cultural and Religious Attitudes of Black African Citizens on Body Donation”.
Her study, which investigated attitudes in a predominantly isiZulu-speaking Black African population, stemmed from recognising the low levels of participation by the population group in body donation programmes.
De Gama received her Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Health Sciences at a Graduation ceremony held on the UKZN Westville campus.
The findings from the quantitative component of the study reflected that age, education, belief in ancestors and observance of cultural practice were associated with willingness to donate. The findings from the qualitative component of the study involving traditional leaders and healers reflected that in KwaZulu-Natal, strongly-held beliefs in ancestors were a major barrier to receiving body donations.
The study was the first of its kind to clarify reasons behind culture and religion being factors that result in unwillingness to donate - similar reasons have been reported in other population groups world-wide.
A desire to make her mark as an academic and serve the community are what motivated De Gama- a Lecturer in Clinical Anatomy at UKZN – to conduct the study.
After a five-year journey of hard work and endurance, de Gama is happy to be among only a handful of young women who have obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Health Sciences.
‘My future aspirations are to grow as a young academic - both in teaching and research. Studying in this programme was among my academic goals and plans, so it aligned well with the University’s drive to ensure that all the academics employed in the University have their doctorates.’
De Gama plans to take the findings of her research back to the community that participated in the study so that they are fully aware they have contributed to the world of science. She believes that without their contribution, a phase of this study would have not been possible.
‘There is still more to be done in this area research. I overcame many challenges thanks to my supervisors, Professor Kapil Satyapal and Dr Thamsanqa Bhengu. Our College really supported me through this study and I’d like to express my deepest gratitude for its contribution.’
De Gama is married with two daughters Kayla (7) and Nia (4). She loves baking, reading, watching movies and playing games.
Her favourite dishes are traditional meals like sugar beans and rice, isitambu, ujeqe and chicken.