Japanese Officials Investigates Kidney Transplants
Jul. 01, 1988
TOKYO (AP) _ The government is investigating reports that Filipino donors were paid to give up a kidney for Japanese patients willing to pay the price, an official said today.
The Health and Welfare Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ministry started the investigation after reports that a Filipino prison inmate was paid to donate a kidney to a 51-year-old Japanese man in June.
''Our position is that the sale of kidneys by unrelated living donors is undesirable and at this point we are trying to confirm those reports,'' the official said.
A person can live with one healthy kidney.
The Japanese government is also investigating whether to ask the Philippines to ban such operations there on Japanese citizens, the official said.
According to Noel Litan, executive assistant to Philippine Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon, two Japanese citizens have received kidneys in Manila in the past month, and both operations were performed at the private Kidney Center of the Philippines.
He said one of the kidneys came from an inmate at a state penitentiary and the other from a Japanese donor.
Under Japanese law, patients are allowed to receive kidneys from relatives or from the dead. The use of organs for transplant from brain-dead donors is not recognized in Japan, and liver, pancreas and heart transplants seldom are performed.
Arrangements for the two Japanese nationals to undergo transplant operations in the Philippines were handled by Tadashi Nakayama, director of the Kidney Transplant Foreign Medical Affairs Research Association.
Nakayama told The Associated Press he did not know that the kidney donor was a prison inmate and denied any knowledge of money being paid to the donor or to his family.
According to a report released Thursday by the Japan Society for Transplantation, about 9,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants in Japan. Only an estimated 572 people received kidney transplants in Japan in 1987, the report said.
''It was a courageous decision by the Filipino doctor to conduct the operation,'' Nakayama said. ''It was an emergency, the patient was dying.''
Nakayama said he agrees it is unethical to pay donors. He added his non- profit organization, which charges $138,000 for 200 days of medical care by a four-member team, lost money on the June case.
''The government here doesn't allow transplants from (unrelated) living donors, but such operations are legal in the Philippines,'' said an employee of the private Japan Health Association's Kidney Transplant Research Department, another group that refers kidney patients to doctors in the Philippines.
The employee, who refused to be further identified, said he believes kidneys are being sold in the Philippines.