OSAKA — The nation’s first organ transplants from a legally established brain-dead donor about two weeks ago were conducted strictly on the wishes of the donor and the donor’s family, doctors who treated the donor said Monday.
Kingo Nishiyama, head of emergency surgeons at Kochi Red Cross Hospital, told reporters he and transplant coordinators dispatched from the Japan Organ Transplant Network told the family at one point that it might be better to give up the procedure because of the family’s fatigue brought on by the media frenzy surrounding the operation. “We made the suggestion because the family seemed to be extremely affected by the media reports. However, the family said they wanted to fully respect the wishes of the patient,” Nishiyama said.
The surgeon strongly criticized the media, saying that some reporters even visited the community of the family to question neighbors. The remarks came during a news conference held at an Osaka hotel to make public the procedure and events leading up to tests confirming the brain death of the donor in Kochi Prefecture.
Nishiyama and other doctors from the Kochi hospital as well as officials from the Health and Welfare Ministry and the Japan Organ Transplant Network, the only entity in the country licensed to arrange organ allocations for transplants from brain-dead donors, attended the news conference.
The exact time of confirmation of brain death was withheld at the request of the donor’s family, they said. The family maintained their request that media stop reporting the patient’s name and gender. According to the doctors and officials, the donor, aged between 40 and 49, came to the hospital by ambulance Feb. 22 after complaining of a severe headache.
But the donor suffered brain hemorrhaging and was in critical condition by the time of arrival at the hospital.
Doctors attached the patient to an artificial respirator at the hospital and decided to operate should the condition improve, but they believed this was unlikely.
Deterioration of the donor’s brain functions continued, and on Feb. 23, the donor lost all ability to breathe unaided. On Feb. 25, the donor was diagnosed as clinically brain dead, they said.
After being told on the evening of Feb. 23 there was little hope of recovery, family members told doctors that the patient had signed a donor card and also registered at the nation’s eye bank and kidney bank.
The family consented that day to the donation of the donor’s kidneys and corneas once the donor’s heart stopped beating. But they did not formally agree to the donation of the organs until the preliminary diagnosis of brain death on the evening of Feb. 25.
Tests conducted for the preliminary diagnosis that night, however, were unable to confirm the absence of brain activity.