Japan’s Law on Organ Transplants Set for Diet Review

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Health minister Katsunobu Kato, left, responds to a question from Nippon Ishin lawmaker Taku Ikeshita, right, at a subcommittee meeting of the lower house Budget Committee in Tokyo on Monday.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato said Monday the government will consult the Diet to review the Organ Transplant Law, in the wake of the arrest of a nonprofit organization head on suspicion of mediating an organ transplant without permission.

“As the law was enacted from a bill submitted by lawmakers, we must consult with the Diet to see how we can deal with the situation,” Kato said at a subcommittee meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, responding to the inquiry by Taku Ikeshita of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party),

A loophole in the law came to light in the case regarding the NPO Intractable Disease Patient Support Association. Under the law, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry does not have investigative authority over such unlicensed mediation groups, leaving the association’s activities unchecked.

Another problem is that the restriction of organ transplant mediation only applies to transplants from the dead, including the brain-dead, and does not apply to living donor transplants.

Ikeshita pointed out these problems and asked about the situation surrounding the enactment of the law.

“At that time, there was a lot of controversy over what to do with transplants involving brain death, and the Liberal Democratic Party removed the party-line voting requirement,” Kato said. “That was the focus at the time.”

Regarding the fact that unlicensed organizations are not subject to the ministry’s supervision, Kato said: “We act based on the law. We cannot go beyond engaging in general administrative involvements to any groups, except for those we have been given permission to.”

Ikeshita stated that he would like to move forward with a bipartisan effort to revise the law.

The ruling LDP plans to begin discussions soon in a Diet members caucus on organ transplants, with a view to reviewing the law.