More than 70% of Brain-Death Organ Transplants Concentrated on Weekends, Holidays; Demand Puts Strain on Hospital Staff, Beds

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Organ removal operations
Analysis based on data from the Japan Organ Transplant Network 2024 data as of Tuesday.

More than 70% of operations to remove organs from brain-dead patients this year were concentrated on weekends and holidays, according to data analysis conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The concentration of requests for transplant facilities to accept organs on weekends and holidays puts a strain on staff and hospital beds. Should this trend continue, an increasing number of facilities will likely have no choice but to turn down donated organs.

According to The Yomiuri Shimbun’s analysis based on data from the Japan Organ Transplant Network, there had been 46 cases of organ donation from brain-dead people this year as of Tuesday. For 35 of these cases, or 76%, the operation took place on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, including the first three days of the New Year.

There were 10 days where two or more organ donations took place, nine of which were a Saturday, Sunday or holiday.

This trend is believed to be due to operating rooms at relevant facilities often being full on weekdays, leading to organ removal operations being scheduled on days when it is easier to secure staff and hospital beds. In addition, it is believed that families of brain-dead patients may have an easier time gathering on weekends and holidays to witness the death of their loved ones.

The proportion of organ removal surgeries conducted on weekends and holidays has increased in recent years, from an average of 41% over 2016-19 to 61% over 2020-23.

There have been cases in which a facility was asked to accept multiple organs on the same day, resulting in facilities declining organs.

Hospitals at the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University and Tohoku University had to decline to perform transplants in a total of 62 cases last year, according to an emergency survey by the Japan Society for Transplantation.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The University of Tokyo Hospital in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo