Lawmakers urged to act now to revise organ transplant law

by Kazuaki Nagata

People in need of organ transplants and their supporters urged lawmakers Friday to revise the transplant law during the current Diet session, despite the World Health Organization’s decision to delay until next year enacting a resolution to restrict overseas travel for transplants.

The group faced reporters in Tokyo to share their experiences in a bid to address the need to improve the organ transplant situation in a nation where donors are scarce, children are not part of the equation and the determination of brain death for the sake of donor eligibility is still a point of heated debate.

Naoki Kogure, 37, a dilated cardiomyopathy patient, received an artificial heart in 2006 and has since been waiting for a real heart.

“It’s been 2 1/2 years, but my name has not been listed,” he said, voicing his worries.

Namie Nakazawa, whose 1-year-old son died while awaiting a heart in the United States, said she hopes the current Diet session can remedy the problem.

“I want children to have the same rights and hopes as adults,” Nakazawa said.

In Geneva on Thursday, diplomatic and WHO sources said the global health body plans to delay setting new guidelines on organ transplants because it is preoccupied with the new swine flu epidemic rapidly spreading worldwide.

Representatives of WHO member countries have agreed on a one-year postponement in establishing the guidelines, which had been scheduled at the WHO’s general assembly meeting beginning May 18, the sources said.

WHO guidelines have been considered one of the reasons for Japan to speed up debate on revising the law, which bans anyone under 15 from being a donor, thus forcing many children who need transplants to go overseas in search of donors.

Diet members have been working to ease the minimum age of organ donors.

Information from Kyodo added