Medical professionals and other citizens called Oct. 10 for more careful consideration to be taken before organ transplants from brain-dead donors are allowed in Japan.At a meeting in Tokyo of those concerned about such medical treatment, Tetsuo Furukawa, a neurologist at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital, said it still has not been scientifically proven whether brain death means a loss of consciousness. “It means that brain-dead donors may feel excruciating pain when their organs are removed by surgeons for use in others,” Furukawa said. “We may end up committing formidable crimes if we go ahead with organ transplants from these donors.” The meeting was held to raise public awareness of related medical problems before an organ transplant law comes into effect next Oct. 9. There has not been enough discussion among medical professionals to determine whether brain-dead patients feel pain, Furukawa said.”It is possible that they feel pain but cannot express it. Some medical institutions in the U.S. have started using morphine before the organs are removed. It obviously means that some doctors in the country have found out … that such donors feel pain when their organs are removed without pain-killing substances,” the doctor said.Tsuguya Sakamoto, former director of the Japanese College of Cardiology, a nationwide association of heart physicians, deplored the current trend of organ transplants as dream treatments for heart patients. He is also upset that those who express concern over such treatment become subject to public criticism. “The mass media have created such a dangerous trend that a number of my colleagues have kept silent, although they are opposed to allowing the treatment in this country,” the veteran physician said. “Even heart surgeons, a majority of whom are considered supportive of organ transplants from brain-dead donors, do not have donor cards,” he said.Other participants warned that medical treatment using human organs as mere body parts may bring about a deterioration in the human spirit and in medical ethics.Sakae Ishikawa, a 43-year-old patient with severe heart disease, said that she does not want to be a heart recipient, although her doctor has recommended a transplant. “If we can live longer and longer by replacing our bad organs, we will lose the meaning of life,” she said.Tsuyoshi Awaya, a professor of medical sociology who often visits the U.S. for research, warned that in the U.S., where organ transplants are most prevalent, the utilization of human organs and tissues has reached an extreme. “The commercialization of human body parts seems to have no recourse,” he said.
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