Japan inquiring deaths involving organ transplants in China

Japan is investigating the deaths of several of its citizens who received organ transplants in China , a Health Ministry official said Tuesday.

A ministry panel of medical experts is examining the cases involving at least eight Japanese patients who received organ transplants in China and later fell seriously ill or died after returning to Japan , ministry official Masae Yano said.

Some of the deaths reported last year occurred after the patients developing infections, pneumonia or brain hemorrhages upon returning home, Yano said, adding that she did not have the exact figure.

"The study group is currently trying to gather more details over the issue," Yano said, adding that the experts are also investigating cases involving organ transplants in other Asian countries.

Heart transplants were banned in Japan until a 1997 law recognized brain death for the first time.

Japan continues to restrict organ donations, prompting dozens of families to seek operations in the United States and Asia where transplants are more widely available, often relying on public donations to cover huge medical costs and traveling fees. Japan also bans organ donations from those 15 and under.

Yano, however, said Japan does not plan to take any action against the Chinese authorities over the case, because, "the outcome was the result of the patients' own decision to receive the medical treatment over there."

Kyodo News agency said at least four Japanese died shortly after their organ transplant operations in Shanghai and Shenyang , northeastern China , over the last two years.

A Chinese organ transplant agency processed more than 100 Japanese patients in Shenyang alone since 2004, Kyodo said.

The ministry panel also discovered seven other Japanese patients who became seriously ill or died from organ transplant operations in the Philippines and Thailand , Yano said.

According to the non-government Japan Organ Transplant Network, more than 12,600 people are currently waiting for donors for heart, lung, liver, kidney or pancreas transplants, while only 19 donations were made, reports the AP.


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