TOKYO (AP) _ Doctors at Okayama University Hospital in western Japan carried out the country's first lung transplant from living donors today.

Organ transplants have been extremely rare in Japan because of a previous law that recognized death only after a patient's heart stopped beating. At that point, organs such as hearts and lungs are usually unsuitable for transplant.

A year ago, a new law was passed to recognize brain death. Still, the idea of removing organs still meets tremendous resistance because of a widespread distrust toward doctors as well as cultural superstition about cutting into corpses. Not a single transplant has been performed in Japan from brain-dead donors.

Today, a 24-year-old woman with an incurable lung disease received half of her 48-year-old mother's left lung and one-third of her 21-year-old sister's right lung.

All three, whom the hospital did not identify, were in stable condition after the nine-hour surgery, a hospital official said.

Dr. Nobuyoshi Shimizu led a team of 20 doctors in performing the operation.

The recipient was expected to recover to about 50 percent of her lung capacity, the newspaper Yomiuri said today. In the last month before surgery, an artificial respirator was helping her breathe.

The donors' lung functions will be reduced by about 20 percent, but they will be able to lead regular lives, the paper said.

A 1996 medical study found that about 400 Japanese patients needed lung transplants during a two-year period, and as many as 3,000 patients now awaiting lung transplants, the Yomiuri said. Some patients flew abroad for transplant operations.

Doctors here have performed lung transplants before but never using organs from a living donor. The most common organ transplants from dead donors carried out in Japan are kidney and cornea transplants.