Japan to Survey Groups Connected to Organ Transplants Abroad

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

Following the recent arrest of a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization’s director on multiple charges of unauthorized mediation of overseas organ transplants, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has said it will survey about 200 medical institutions across the nation to investigate the actual state of transplants abroad.

The ministry unveiled the plan at a meeting of its Health Science Council’s organ transplant committee on Monday.

A research group consisting of organ transplant surgeons and others will carry out the survey subsidized by the ministry from early April to mid-June. The survey will cover about 200 facilities, including hospitals performing organ transplants in Japan and those treating post-transplant patients.

The health ministry is considering having the research group send questionnaires to respective institutions, with the cooperation of relevant academic societies including the Japan Society for Transplantation.

For now, the ministry plans to collect information such as the number of patients who are receiving treatment in Japan after receiving organ transplants overseas; countries where the patients received transplants; whether the organ donors were alive or deceased; and the patients’ post-transplant condition.

The research group will determine the details of the survey, including how far back the survey will cover. Another focus of attention is how much information can be collected from the survey about the reality of private organizations engaged in organ transplant mediation like the Tokyo-based NPO in question, whose years of mediation activities have only been revealed recently, let alone information on patients receiving organ transplants overseas.

The ministry had another research group conduct a survey of this kind in 2006. In that survey, at least 522 patients were found to have received organ transplants overseas. However, since the Organ Transplant Law does not have provisions regarding the authority to supervise organizations engaged in unauthorized mediation of organ transplants, activities of such organizations including the Tokyo-based NPO have not been restricted.