Doctor, wife jailed for buying illegally harvested kidney


A Tokyo doctor was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for purchasing an illegally harvested kidney, and his wife was jailed for 30 months over her involvement.

The Tokyo District Court found Toshinobu Horiuchi, 56, and his 48-year-old wife, Noriko, guilty of purchasing the kidney in violation of the organ transplant law.

The court said Horiuchi, facing kidney failure, in July 2010 paid ¥8 million to an intermediary in exchange for a kidney from a 21-year-old unemployed ma, whom the doctor technically adopted to ensure the transplant met the legal criteria of being among relatives.

The couple’s act “impaired the principle of equality for organ transplants,” presiding Judge Atsuo Wakazono said.

Wakazono said the behavior of the defendants ran counter to the basic philosophy of the transplant law and he “finds no grounds for clemency” for Horiuchi, who “selfishly committed a crime by taking advantage of his financial ability, despite being a doctor.”

Noriko Horiuchi was “actively involved in the conspiracy by serving as a liaison between her husband and gangsters” who mediated in the illegal kidney, the judge said.

Prosecutors had sought prison terms of four years for Horiuchi and his wife, both of whom had admitted to the charges and were seeking suspended sentences.

The Organ Transplant Law bans all trade in organs, and the ethical guidelines of the Japan Society for Transplantation only permit live organ donations between family members.

Asking for organs or promising to pay for them is illegal, as is receiving a commission for mediating in such transplants.

The court said Horiuchi paid ¥10 million to a 51-year-old mobster and others between October 2009 and April 2010 after they introduced him to a potential kidney donor. But the transplant was canceled after the gangster demanded more money.

The doctor then asked another underworld member to find him a new donor and ultimately received a kidney from the 21-year-old man.

The donor was registered as Horiuchi’s adopted son before the surgery so the transplant could be passed off as between relatives.

Seven other people were indicted over their involvement in the organ trade conspiracy, of whom five have had their guilty sentences finalized. The other two are appealing their convictions.