Japan’s Organ Transplant NPO Recorded Large ‘Profits’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hiromichi Kikuchi, director of the NPO Intractable Disease Patient Support Association, is sent to prosecutors on Thursday in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

A ¥10 million surplus from arranging a single organ transplant overseas is among the irregularities that have stood out about the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department.

From three patients, the NPO Intractable Disease Patient Support Association received a total of ¥130 million in transplant expenses for surgeries in Belarus arranged without official permission, investigative sources said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The NPO’s director, 62-year-old Hiromichi Kikuchi of Yokohama, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of violating the Organ Transplant Law, which prohibits organ trafficking and unauthorized mediation in arranging transplants.

According to a senior MPD official, Kikuchi is suspected of arranging overseas organ transplants without permission from the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry.

In October to November 2021, Kikuchi allegedly recommended a man in his 40s who suffered from cirrhosis to receive a liver transplant. The man was ushered to a national hospital in Minsk and underwent transplant surgery in February 2022.

The surgery was not done with a liver of a living donor but one donated upon the death of a person in Belarus.

The man’s condition deteriorated after the surgery, forcing him to receive another transplant with a liver donated from a family member after returning to Japan. The man died in November 2022.

In Belarus, three people, including this man, had received transplants with the assistance of the NPO. The MPD checked local market prices for transplants and found that a liver transplant costs about ¥16 million, and a kidney transplant costs about ¥8.1 million.

The man who received the liver transplant paid the NPO about ¥33 million, more than double the market price. The MPD believes that the NPO was left with a surplus of about ¥10 million even after deducting the patient’s travel fees and personnel expenses.

Of these three patients, a man in his 50s who received a kidney transplant in July 2022 paid the NPO about ¥18.5 million, more than double the market price for the procedure. The other patient in his 40s received a kidney and liver transplant in September, paying about ¥85 million to the NPO. The market price of simultaneous transplants is not known.

Kikuchi allegedly manages the NPO’s bank account. The MPD is investigating the circumstances of the transactions.

On Thursday, the MPD sent Kikuchi to prosecutors and cited the NPO as well.

Kikuchi has denied the allegations, saying that he thought he did not need permission in Japan for organ transplant surgery overseas. The MPD sees the NPO’s seeking of patients in Japan as constituting unauthorized mediation.