Why organ transplant is so difficult to carry out in Japan

Deutsche Welle

Restrictive laws, religious concerns and a lack of knowledge about donating organs mean that medically-sophisticated Japan lags well behind other nations in life-saving operations. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo.


Across Japan, an estimated 40,000 people are waiting to hear that a suitable donor organ has been found for them and that they can undergo the operation required for them to once again lead a normal life. Most, however, will not receive the call before their medical complaints claim their lives.

According to the Japan Organ Transplant Network, some 5,000 people are on the national list for a heart transplant operation, a further 13,000 require a new kidney and 350 need replacement livers. Hundreds more need to undergo lung or pancreas transplant operations and other procedures that require a donor.

Of the total, hundreds are children, including 120 who require new kidneys and 50 who are awaiting a heart operation.

Falling short

However, the organ donation rate in Japan falls far short of what is required to meet patients' needs, with only 0.7 donations for every million people who die.

That figure pales against donation rates in other advanced nations. The figure for the US is 28.5 per million people and 27.5 per million in France, although the highest figure is in Spain, where the rate has reached 39.7 million people. Continue reading

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