The public is divided over whether to allow transplants of organs from brain-dead people who have not made it clear whether they wish to become donors, according to a government survey.
The Cabinet Office study, released Saturday, found that 35.4 percent of respondents believe such transplants should be forbidden because the intent of brain-dead people cannot be confirmed, while 45.5 percent say it should be up to a brain-dead person’s family to decide.
Only 9.7 percent said transplants should be allowed as long as the brain-dead people have not explicitly refused to donate their organs.
“We see the judgment of the respondents as divided on the issue,” a Cabinet Office official said.
The survey also shows that 60.7 percent of the people surveyed endorse organ transplants from donors under the age of 15, which is prohibited under the Organ Transplant Law. The figure was up 1 percentage point from the previous survey in 2002.
But 23.2 percent, up 3.5 percentage points from the 2002 survey, said such transplants should not be conducted.
The question of whether to allow organ transplants from brain-dead people who have not clearly stated whether they wish to become donors is a key discussion topic among lawmakers working to revise the law.
Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have proposed that transplants from brain-dead people should be allowed if there is consent from their families. If approved, this could pave the way for organs to be transplanted from minors under the age of 15.
The transplant law has not been revised since it was implemented in October 1997, though the government had said it would review the law within three years of it going into force.
The LDP lawmakers hope that by revising the law the number of organ transplants will be boosted. The revision is also aimed at making unnecessary the practice of parents taking their children abroad for transplant operations because of the lack of suitable organs in Japan for child recipients due to the ban applied on children under 15.
The survey shows 35.4 percent of the respondents intend to donate their organs if they become brain dead, down 0.6 percentage point from the previous survey. Conversely, 32.8 percent, up 1 percentage point, indicated they have no intention of donating their organs.
It also shows 54.6 percent, down 1.3 points, said they are interested in organ transplants, while 71.9 percent, up 3 points, responded they are aware of the existence of donor cards that indicate a cardholder’s intention to donate his organs.
Under the current law, donors must sign organ-donor cards and agree to donate their organs to recipients, and their families are required to give consent to the arrangements.
Some 10.5 percent of the respondents said they have donor cards, exceeding the 10 percent mark for the first time since the government began compiling the survey in 1998.
The Cabinet Office official said the survey indicates people have a high interest in organ donation, but many are still hesitant about becoming donors.
The survey, conducted between Aug. 12 and Aug. 22, covered 3,000 people aged 20 or older across Japan, with 2,125, or 70.8 percent, responding.
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