Organs of brain-dead boy are harvested


Toyama University Hospital said three surgical teams on Friday successfully extracted the heart, liver and kidneys from a boy who was declared brain-dead.

The boy’s heart was successfully transplanted into a girl under the age of 10 in Osaka Prefecture later in the day.

The liver will go to another girl in Tokyo, also younger than 10, and the kidneys will be transplanted to a woman in her 60s in the city of Toyama, the Japan Organ Transplant Network said.

The girl who received the heart was in a stable condition Friday afternoon following the operation at Osaka University Hospital, and will be discharged in two or three months, doctors said.

The donor is the first under age 6 to be declared brain-dead since the revised organ transplant law took effect in July 2010 to cover children in the under-15 age group, requiring tougher brain-death criteria for those under 6.

“We’re proud of our son,” his parents, who were not identified, said in a statement later in the day.

A medical team from the Osaka hospital left the Toyama facility in the afternoon with the heart and rushed it to an operating theater where the girl was waiting at around 11 a.m.

The liver was to be taken to the National Center for Child Health and Development in Tokyo and the kidneys to Toyama Prefectural Central Hospital.

The three teams got together at Toyama University Hospital shortly before 8 a.m. Friday, carrying various medical instruments and large coolers to transport the organs.

The boy, who had a brain disorder, was declared brain-dead due to the malady Thursday. In addition to his heart, liver and kidneys, the boy’s parents and relatives agreed to donate his lungs, pancreas and small intestine although surgeons gave up on extracting them mainly for medical reasons.

Under the revised law, organs can be taken from anyone regardless of age if the family consents, unless the individual in question has explicitly refused to be a donor. Tougher brain-death criteria, however, are applied to children under 6 years old.

If a case involves a potential donor under 18, the admitting hospital must confirm there was no child abuse involved.

To determine brain-death, various diagnoses are involved, including a determination on the depth of any coma and dilation of the pupils — procedures that must be carried out twice after an interval of more than six hours.

For those under age 6, an interval of more than 24 hours is required because younger people are considered more resilient than adults.

Surgeons at Toyama University Hospital completed the second round of tests on the boy at 2:11 p.m. Thursday, according to the network, which is the sole entity certified as an intermediary for organ transplants in Japan.

The latest case is the second brain-death declaration involving children under 15 since the law was revised in 2010 to cover the younger age group.

In April last year, a boy between 10 and 14 was declared brain-dead by a hospital in the Kanto-Koshinetsu region surrounding Tokyo, becoming the nation’s first case of brain-death involving a child under 15 qualified to be an organ donor.

The original organ transplant law, which banned the harvesting or transplanting of child organs, took effect in 1997.