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Sapporo Medical University professor emeritus Juro Wada, who in 1968 performed Japan’s first heart transplant, died of pneumonia Monday afternoon at his home in Tokyo, the college said Tuesday. He was 88.

Wada performed the operation at the university hospital on Aug. 8, 1968, in which the heart of a 21-year-old drowned college student was implanted in an 18-year-old male suffering cardiac valvular disease. The recipient died 83 days later on Oct. 29.

Wada was accused of manslaughter over the brain-death diagnosis of the donor and subsequent surgery, the 30th heart transplant in the world at the time, but prosecutors eventually dropped the case because of insufficient evidence.

Following the surgery, which prompted discussion of the ethical and technical issues of organ transplants, doctors who provided organs from brain-dead donors repeatedly faced criminal complaints, effectively halting such procedures in Japan until the 1997 enforcement of the Organ Transplant Law.

A Sapporo native, Wada graduated from the School of Medicine at Hokkaido University in 1944 and served as a professor at the Sapporo Medical University and the Tokyo Women’s Medical University.

After retiring, he set up a heart and lung research institute.

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