Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"14 children pronounced brain dead in past year did not donate organs despite legal changes

"Headlines were made across Japan in April when a child pronounced brain dead became the first and so far only child to donate organs under legal changes implemented in July 2010. A Mainichi survey has discovered, however, that at least 14 other children have been pronounced brain dead over the past year but did not donate any organs.

"The Mainichi survey -- conducted July 1-15 and receiving responses from 46 of the 56 medical institutions across Japan queried -- found that children had been pronounced brain dead at 11 facilities. Organ donations were not performed, however, due mainly to lack of parental consent or doctors failing to mention the possibility of donations. Particularly in cases of very small children, there was unwillingness among parents and doctors to equate brain death with the death of the patient, the survey showed.

"Organ transplants from brain dead children aged 15 and under became legal under revisions to the Organ Transplant Law that went into effect on July 17 last year.

"Among the 14 children revealed in the survey to have been pronounced brain dead, four did not make donations because parents would not consent, four because attending physicians could not bring themselves to suggest organ donation to the grieving family, two because doctors could not rule out that the child had been physically abused at home, and one because the doctor chose not to mention donations for medical reasons.

"Regarding the fact that just one brain dead child has donated organs in the past year, half the respondents said they had expected such a low figure, citing "parents' inability to accept that their child is brain dead" and "difficulty in ascertaining the role of physical abuse in a child patient's brain death," among other possible reasons.

"As of Feb. 1 this year, there are 303 medical institutions in Japan that openly perform organ transplants from brain dead donors aged 18 and over. Transplants from brain dead children are technically possible at all these facilities, though only 56 have declared their willingness to perform such procedures."

By Mainichi Shimbun (7/18/2011), Link to article (last visited 7/19/2011)

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