July 6, 2022

Japan lifts ban on organ donation by children

Momentous change for Buddhist culture

Japan has relaxed strict regulations and has lifted a ban on organ donations from children. Up to now, organs for sick children were in such short supply that their parents were forced to seek them overseas.

A new law, which will take effect in a year’s time, will allow brain dead children under 15 to donate their organs with the consent of their parents. According to a report in AP, this is a major change because Buddhists consider the body sacred and reject its desecration. Until 1997, Japan had barred organ donations even from brain dead adults. But children still could not donate because they could not give informed consent.

The new law also recognises “brain death” as legal death for the first time. This is a controversial measure in Japan and an editorial in the Japan Times was harshly critical. There had not been enough public consultation, it said. It also contended that “The bill is likely to increase the burden of doctors, especially emergency room doctors, at medical facilities designated as capable of removing organs for transplants. Since all brain-dead people will become potential donors under the bill, doctors will have the added duty of explaining the situation and asking family members whether they approve of organ transplants.” ~ Japan Times, July 16; AP, July 14