Organ transplant bill nears Upper House vote

After only four hours of debate June 16, two-thirds of the Upper House select committee on brain death and organ transplants passed a compromise bill that will authorize organ transplants from brain-dead donors by narrowing the definition of brain death.

The bill, submitted earlier in the day by a suprapartisan group of six lawmakers led by Liberal Democrat Noriyuki Sekine, is expected to be put to a vote at the Upper House plenary session June 17. It will probably get the nod from the Upper House because it has obtained basic support from many members of the LDP and the main Upper House opposition group Heiseikai, consisting of Shinshinto and Komei party lawmakers. All non-Communist parties have allowed their members to decide for themselves how they would vote on the bill because of its sensitive nature.

In an attempt to block what was considered a premature vote, Tokiko Nishiyama, a member of the Japanese Communist Party, called for more debate on the compromise bill. Eight of the 35 committee members present, including those from other parties, supported the motion. The bill’s proponents hope it will be sent back to the Lower House later June 17 to be voted on by the end of the day so the bill can be passed before the current Diet session ends June 18. In a sign that the transplant bill may finally receive Diet approval, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he will support the compromise bill when it is put to a Lower House vote.