Staff writerInstead of organ transplants, more thought should be given to alternatives such as use of artificial organs, cardiology expert Hiroshi Yamaguchi says.He opposes making transplants from brain-dead donors standard treatment. “Organ transplants are not something almighty. I think the demerits of the procedure have been understated,” said Yamaguchi, a professor of cardiology at Juntendo University in Tokyo. “It is more important to search for alternative treatment methods. Organ transplants involving brain-dead donors should be utilized as a provisional choice until alternative ones are developed,” said Yamaguchi, 64, who is also deputy director of the university’s hospital.As a reason for his view, Yamaguchi described the difficulty of saying with certainty that a patient needs a transplant, citing the case of someone surviving without any problems for more than 10 years after being diagnosed as in need of a heart transplant. “There is a lingering fear that patients who have no need of organ transplants may be talked into having the surgery, because they usually do not have sufficient knowledge to find out if they really need a transplant,” he said.”In addition, organ recipients often suffer from postoperative complications, including severe infections, malignant lymphoma and rejection, which may claim their lives.”He referred to a male patient who went to the United States to receive a heart in 1994 but died three years later from organ rejection. During the three years, he was hospitalized as many as eight times. “I wonder if the transplant was really good for him, considering his quality of life,” Yamaguchi said. “If he had not gone through the transplant, he might have enjoyed his last days of life without suffering that much.”Yamaguchi said many patients have suffered serious side effects from organ transplants and died within a few years, after being hospitalized many times. Those patients had transplants in respected hospitals abroad, each institution having massive experience in organ transplants from brain-dead donors, doing about 100 such operations a year, Yamaguchi said.”If patients suffer like that despite receiving organs at such experienced hospitals abroad,” he asked, “how could hospitals in Japan that have no experience in organ transplants produce better results?”

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