Another Patient Death Reported in Suspicious Transplants in Belarus

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hiromichi Kikuchi

A 45-year-old man who underwent a simultaneous kidney and liver transplant surgery in Belarus in early September last year died before the month was out, according to police sources. It was the second patient death related to overseas transplant operations arranged in Belarus last year by a nonprofit organization that is suspected of illegal activities.

The fact that two people have died in connection with the suspicious transplants was a factor in the Metropolitan Police Department’s investigation into the Tokyo-based NPO Intractable Disease Patient Support Association, sources said.

The MPD arrested the NPO’s director, 62-year-old Hiromichi Kikuchi, on Tuesday on suspicion of violating the Organ Transplant Law.

According to MPD officials, Kikuchi is suspected of arranging an overseas liver transplant for another man in his 40s who also subsequently died. He is said to have made the arrangements without permission from the health, labor and welfare minister. That man’s condition worsened after the transplant surgery last February and he died in November 2022 after receiving a second transplant in Japan.

The liver transplant patient who died in November and the liver-kidney transplant patient who died in September are among three Japanese patients taken to Belarus for transplants by the NPO.

The liver-kidney patient traveled to Belarus in May 2022, paying about ¥85 million, and underwent surgery on Sept. 1. But he developed peritonitis caused by bacteria and died on Sept. 28, sources said.

A person concerned said that the man had visited the NPO office because his worsening cirrhosis made it necessary for him to undergo both liver and kidney transplant surgeries. He had learned about the NPO’s activities through its website.

Showing him a picture of a Belarus hospital, Kikuchi recommended he undergo transplant surgeries with words like “You can be admitted to a university hospital after returning to Japan,” according to a person who knows the situation.

The man transferred ¥3 million as a retainer and ¥82 million as a deposit to the NPO’s account, and traveled to Belarus under the NPO’s guidance.

The hospital initially said that the surgery was successful, but it later stated that his condition suddenly changed after the surgery.

It is said that the organ donor was a deceased local man.

An official at the hospital told The Yomiuri Shimbun that the patient’s case became difficult due to multiple illnesses after undergoing transplant surgery.

According to transplant physicians at the Japan Society for Transplantation, simultaneous transplants of multiple organs can lead to a dramatic recovery if successful, but the surgery takes longer and involves more blood loss, increasing the risk of infection and other problems.