Under the revised Organ Transplant Law, which went into force July 17, organ transplants are now possible from a brain-dead person of any age if the person has not openly rejected becoming a donor and if his or her family members approve. Before the revision, organs could be taken, with family approval, only from people aged 15 or over who had accepted brain death as actual death and had indicated in writing their intention of becoming donors.

On Tuesday, organs were taken from a brain-dead man in his 20s in a hospital in the Kanto region solely with the consent of his family and in the absence of any written declaration on his part of his desire to become a donor. His heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys were transplanted to five recipients.

The man was involved in a traffic accident in Chiba Prefecture. On Aug. 5, the Japan Organ Transplant Network was notified about the man. On Aug. 8, his family submitted written consent for removing organs from him and agreed to let him undergo brain-death diagnosis that is legally required prior to removal of his organs. His family said that when watching a TV program featuring organ transplants, he had said that he would like to offer his organs if he became brain dead.

Since this is the first time that organs have been removed for transplants in the absence of a written declaration of the desire to offer organs, it is important that as much information as possible concerning the circumstances of the case be disclosed, even as his family’s privacy is protected.

The organ transplant network and hospitals concerned should give detailed explanations on questions such as whether adequate emergency room treatment was given to the man after the traffic accident, who was the first to tell his family about the possibility of transplanting his organs, and what he actually said when he watched the TV feature on organ transplants.

Especially important is what happened from the time his family was informed of his brain death to the time it agreed to the removal of his organs. Transparency is indispensable in deepening public discussion on organ transplants under the revised law.

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