Man Sues Organ Transplant NPO For ¥30 Million

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man from Kanagawa Prefecture was scheduled to undergo a kidney transplant at this hospital in Bishkek, seen here in June last year.

A male patient has filed a lawsuit seeking about ¥30 million from the Intractable Disease Patient Support Association, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Tokyo-based nonprofit organization is suspected of facilitating a kidney transplant that used a trafficked organ overseas. The first court hearing will be held at the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday.

According to the complaint filed Dec. 7, the 58-year-old man from Kanagawa Prefecture was diagnosed in June 2021 with an intractable disease that causes rapid decline in kidney function, and started receiving dialysis treatment three times a week. He tried to register with the Japan Organ Transplant Network, an organization that matches donors to patients, but was told that the average waiting time for a kidney transplant was 17 years.

The man then started considering receiving a kidney transplant abroad.

Having learned about the NPO’s activities on the internet, he met its 62-year-old director in August 2021. The man was told the operation costs would be about ¥18 million and that he would obtain a full refund if the procedure could not be carried out for reasons related to the hospital or the NPO.

Having been told “there’s nothing to worry about, because this is legitimate transplant operation,” the man paid about ¥17.06 million into the NPO’s account.

In November 2021, he traveled to Kyrgyzstan through the NPO’s mediation. But after a Japanese woman who received a transplant from a donor in Kyrgyzstan became seriously ill the following month, he was told by the NPO that his operation had been postponed because the doctors had become unavailable.

The man returned home that month without undergoing the procedure.

In July last year, the man paid an additional ¥1.35 million to the NPO because he wanted to receive a transplant in a different country.

However, the man decided not to have the operation after the Yomiuri reported in August last year that the NPO was suspected of facilitating the use of a trafficked kidney in the previous year’s transplant in Kyrgyzstan, and that the donor was a Ukrainian who was having financial difficulties.

He asked the NPO for a refund of the money he had paid, but it did not respond to his request.

The man is seeking the return of the about ¥18.41 million he paid to the NPO and about ¥11.59 million in damages, claiming he had to quit his job to prepare for the travel and surgery.

He told the Yomiuri that he would not have sought a transplant through the NPO if he had known that it was suspected of facilitating a transplant with a trafficked kidney.

This is the first time a civil lawsuit filed by a patient has been revealed in connection with the suspected organ trafficking. The NPO director said on Jan. 11 that he could not discuss individual lawsuits, but that he had not committed any illegal acts.