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The following is the second part of my paper, "Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?," published in The Lancet Neurology, vol.6, January 2007, p.90.

Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?
Masahiro Morioka

Part 2 (Part 1 is here)

Second, concerning the donor’s prior declaration principle, Dr. Tateo Sugimoto and I have proposed to revise the current law and allow children between 6 years and 15 years to be able to have donor cards and express their wishes on brain death and organ transplants. A Donor card without the signature of a person with parental authority should not be accepted (4). This approach is the only way to remove organs from brain-dead children, maintaining the donor’s prior declaration principle. In the Article 12 of “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” we can find this expression, “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child.” This is the basic idea of our proposal.

Then, what about when a brain-dead child does not have a valid donor card, or when the child is younger than 6 years of age? I think in this case the organs should not be removed from a brain-dead child even if the parents wish to do so. The silent child might have been thinking that a brain-dead person is not really dead, or it might be that organ removal was against the child’s inner wish. Organ removal from such a child is equivalent to exploitation of a “living” child. Children have the right not to be exploited by the desire of adults. When a brain dead child has said nothing about brain death, we have to think that the child has a right to live and die peacefully, fully protected against the interests of others. One might say that this means to discard babies with severe diseases who can’t survive without transplantation. Last year (2005) a 1 year old Japanese baby received five organs in the USA, but unfortunately she lived only 5 months and died early this year (2006). By contrast, the brain-dead baby, mentioned above, “lived” 4 years with her parents in a hospital. Every year her birthday was celebrated by the medical staff. No one can decide which life is superior to or more valuable than the other. It is time to reconsider organ transplantation from brain-dead children.

1) Masahiro Morioka, “Reconsidering Brain Death,” Hastings Center Report 31, no.4 (2001): 41-46
2) D. A. Shewmon, “Chronic ‘Brain Death,’” Neurology 51 (1998): 1538-45.
3) Chisen Kamei, Hidamari no Byoshitsu de. Medica Shuppan, 2002.
4) Masahiro Morioka and Tateo Sugimoto, “A Proposal for Revision of the Organ Transplantation Law Based on a Child Donor’s Prior Declaration,” EJAIB 11 (2001):108-110. http://www.lifestudies.org/transplantation01.html

What do you think, especially about the last part of this paper? Most people do not know the fact that a brain dead child sometimes continue to "live" for more than a year and grow taller and taller, and move their hands and legs frequently, without the function of his/her brain. In many countries such facts are not disclosed to the family. They are just told that their brain dead child is dead and there is no hope of recovery, hence, the final option is to donate organs for transplants. In Japan, organ transplants from brain dead children are prohibited under the current law, and as a result, some family members can live with their brain dead child in hospitals for more than a year happily. The problem is that the current law is scheduled to be revised to enable organ transplants from brain dead children without their own wishes.

This paper will be uploaded to the main website soon.

Related post: *BBC's biased report on organ transplants
                    *Removing organs from brain dead children

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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