Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Relax rules to allow more organ transplants

"How wide has the organ transplant brokerage business for Japanese spread abroad?

"The Japanese police have started investigating an organization that brokered organ transplants in China for Japanese recipients.

"Japan's Organ Transplant Law, which prohibits providing or brokering organs for profit, also can be enforced when Japanese are found to have violated the law abroad. The police must investigate thoroughly to determine the full extent of this case.

"However, the investigation into the organ transplant brokerage organization began under rather complicated circumstances.

"A Japanese man, who headed the organization, was arrested in China for allegedly violating provisions implemented last year to prohibit the selling and buying of organs. But a Chinese court did not prosecute the man for the illegality of his organ brokerage business. Instead, he was found guilty of falsely advertising his organ transplant business and was deported to Japan on Tuesday.

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"Test of Japan-China cooperation

"It is said that more than 10,000 organ transplants are conducted annually in China, with most of the organs taken from death-row inmates. Since organ transplants there are not based on good-will donations from those who are designated as brain-dead following an accident or through natural causes, it is easy to imagine that money is paid under the table for the organs.

"Such circumstances in China might have played a part in the Japanese man not being prosecuted over his role in the organ transplant brokerage business. Since China did not prosecute him, the Japanese police now have good reason to investigate what he did in that country.

"Whether the police can charge him with a criminal offense essentially depends on the cooperation of Chinese investigative authorities. This will become the first case to test an agreement on criminal investigation cooperation between Japan and China that is set to go into force at the end of this month.

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"Law doesn't fit situation

"Behind the brokering of organs abroad is the fact that it is very difficult to receive an organ transplant operation in Japan.

"Only 76 transplant operations have been carried out using organs from brain-dead donors since the Organ Transplant Law was implemented in 1997 because extremely strict regulations--not found in any other country--are imposed on such transplants in Japan.

"In addition to consent from donors made on special cards or in other forms of writing, permission is needed from the families of brain-dead people to have organs transplanted. Also, under the regulations, only those aged 15 or older are deemed capable of giving consent for donating their organs. This means it is almost impossible for babies and toddlers to receive heart and other organ transplants in Japan because the organs of people aged 15 or older are too big.

"This forces many people, including babies, toddlers and even adults, to travel abroad to receive organ transplants.

"Several bills to revise the Organ Transplant Law have been submitted to the Diet, including one that would allow organ transplants through the agreement of family members if consent of the brain-dead person cannot be obtained, which is similar to laws in many other countries.

"However, it is strange why lawmakers are not deliberating on these bills.

"While Japan restricts the transplant of organs from brain-dead donors in this country, the Japanese are going abroad to receive organs--essentially they are buying the organs. This situation should not last forever."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (Editorial, 11/14/2008), Link to article (last visited 11/15/2008)

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