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Second Organ Transplant in Japan

May 13, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Doctors in Japan today successfully completed the nation’s second organ transplant from a brain-dead donor under a two-year-old law setting guidelines for such operations.

The donor, identified only as a man in his 30s from the Tokyo area, had given written consent for his organs to be transplanted, as had his family. He was declared brain-dead Wednesday.

The heart was flown to the National Cardiovascular Center Hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, where a man in his 40s suffering from heart disease received a transplant, hospital chief Takenori Yamaguchi said.

In February, Japanese doctors performed the country’s first heart transplant in 30 years, allowed under a 1997 law recognizing brain death. Before that, Japan had not allowed a person to be declared dead until the heart had stopped _ making transplants of many organs impossible.

The February transplants, using the heart, liver and kidneys of a 44-year-old female donor, caused a media sensation in Japan, prompting worries that the intense attention would discourage other donors.

Two kidney transplant operations were also successfully completed today.

The recipients were selected by the nonprofit Japan Organ Transplant Network, the only organization in Japan authorized to arrange organ transplants from brain-dead donors.

Before the operation in February, only one transplant from a patient declared brain dead had ever been carried out in Japan, a heart transplant in 1968 that was so controversial that no surgeon attempted another until after passage of the 1997 law.

The idea of removing organs still meets tremendous resistance in Japan, due partly to distrust of doctors and partly to a cultural distaste with cutting into corpses.

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