A group of doctors is asking for permission to remove insulin-producing cells from the pancreas of a brain-dead person for transplantation into a diabetes patient, sources said.
The group is considering performing the procedure on about 20 diabetes patients over two years if permission is granted to use brain-dead donors. The health ministry will be asked to designate the practice as an advanced medical treatment so insurance can be obtained to cover some of the costs, the sources said.
The procedure requires pancreatic cells extracted from a donor to be inserted into the patient through a drip infusion.
Transplantation of pancreatic cells harvested from heart failure victims — set to be carried out in Japan for the first time this summer — has already been designated as an advanced medical treatment.
Around 120 patients are awaiting pancreatic transplants, the sources said.
Organ donations have been on the rise since the organ transplant law was revised in 2010.
Data-sharing law eyed
The health ministry began talks Wednesday to forge a legal framework that will allow hospitals, municipalities and care facilities to share patient medical data, including information on clinic visitation histories.
The biggest challenge is figuring out how to protect personal information while boosting collaboration between medical institutions, the sources claimed.
The ministry will consult experts this summer with an eye to submitting a bill to the Diet next year after further discussions.
Ministry guidelines currently urge medical institutions and care business operators to ensure sound organizational structures and rules for handling sensitive information.
But since a Diet debate on the personal data protection law in 2003, critics have pointed to the need to draft separate pieces of legislation for the medical and financial sectors, where high levels of information privacy are a must.