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Special Report: No.1
Brain Death and Transplantation in Japan


The Japanese Organ Transplantation Law was established in 1997. Under this law, before a “legal brain death diagnosis” and “organ removal” can occur, both the “donor's prior declaration” and “family consent” must be obtained. While agreeing that the law allows a choice in defining when death begins, critics argue that the “donor's prior declaration” principle is too strict. Moreover, donations by brain dead children under 15 years are prohibited. As required by a supplementary provision, the law began to be reconsidered in October 2000. Since then, several revisions have been proposed and have caused heated debates. The areas of greatest concern are the “donor's prior declaration” principle and organ donations from brain dead child donors. An unprecedented bioethics debate is occurring in Japan.

[Postscript in 2009] The Japanese Organ Transplantation Law was finally revised in July, 2009. See Outline below.

1) Outline
Outline of the history and the proposals

2) Report
"Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan's Fifteen Years of Experience" in Hastings Center Report 31, no.4 (Jul.-Aug.,2001):41-46. [Sep.8,2001]

3) Material
The translation of Morioka&Sugimoto Proposal, "A Proposal for Revision of the Organ Transplantation Law Based on a Child Donor's Prior Declaration" in Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics. [Aug.1,2001]

4) Book
Brain Dead Person (1989) "Human relationship oriented analysis" of the issue of brain death. [Dec.20,2004]

5) Papers
Two Aspects of Brain Dead Being (2000) The discrepancy between scientific reality and our emotional/spiritual reality.

Current Debate on the Ethical Issues of Brain Death (2004)
Is it Morally Acceptable to Remove Organs from Brain-Dead Children? (2007) A paper published in The Lancet.
Bioethics and Japanese Culture (1995) The most frequently visited paper on this website.

6) Other Materials
Margaret Lock's book, Twice Dead (2001). A detailed comparison of the issue of brain death between North America and Japan.

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