60% of Japanese polled support idea of younger organ donors

Nearly three out of five Japanese survey respondents think organs from children younger than 15 should be allowed for use in transplants, according to a Cabinet Office survey.

Under the current law, which went into effect five years ago, children under 15 are banned from donating organs.

The survey results indicate growing concern about Japan’s Organ Transplant Law, which forces children to go overseas to receive life-saving operations.

The survey released Saturday found that 59.7 percent of respondents think organs should be made available from children younger than 15, while 19.7 percent are opposed to the idea.

The survey also showed that 36 percent of respondents wish to donate their organs if they suffer brain death. In a survey conducted in 2000, 32.6 percent wished to do so.

To the contrary, however, the percentage of people aware of the existence of donor cards, which indicate cardholders’ intention to donate their organs, dropped sharply to 68.9 percent from 81.1 percent in the previous survey.

Regarding whether the wishes of prospective donors under 15 should be honored, 32.4 percent of those surveyed said other people, including family members, should decide, while 28.3 percent felt that children’s wishes should be respected.

Among those who said people under 15 cannot make proper judgments, 21.8 percent indicated that others cannot do so either.

Asked whether they would donate organs from family members under 15 if such members are judged brain dead, 49 percent said they would agree to organ donations, 12.8 percent said they would not, and 38.2 percent said they could not predict how they would respond.

On a question not specifying the age of a potential donor, 63.4 percent — down slightly from 68.8 percent in 2000 — said they would donate the organs of a family member in the event of brain death.

Those opposed to such donations grew to 10.4 percent from 9.5 percent.

Under the law that went into force in October 1997, donors must sign organ-donor cards and agree to donate their organs. Their families must also consent to the arrangements. The law stipulates that donors must be 15 years old or older. This is in line with the Civil Code, which enables only people 15 or older to leave wills.

Some lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering submitting a proposal in the next ordinary Diet session, convening in January, to enable families to decide whether to let their children be donors.

Some 2,100 of 3,000 people aged 20 or older responded to the survey conducted nationwide from late July to early August.

Teen gets heart in U.S.

WAKAYAMA (Kyodo) An 18-year-old male Japanese high school student underwent a successful heart transplant operation at a Los Angeles hospital, his support group said Sunday.

Toshitaka Takei, a first-year student at a high school in Wakayama city, left Japan in August and waited for a donor at the hospital of the University of California, Los Angeles.

He suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to become enlarged and function poorly.

A donor was found Thursday and Takei was operated on the same day. He is steadily recuperating, the group said.

He could be released within one week at the earliest, but the group said he will need to receive outpatient treatment for around three months in the United States.

Takei left Japan on Aug. 21 after friends and supporters collected about 94 million yen in donations to cover the cost of the treatment.