After I published an article on foreigners and organ transplants last time, I got a question from a reader asking whether foreign people living in Japan really can be organ donors or recipients. I asked some major organizations dealing with organ transplants in Japan about this and got some replies from the Japan Organ Transplant Network. Today I would like to share the Q and A here.
Q1: From your involvement in educational activities about Japanese law and will writing in relation to organ transplant, are you involved in or do you know of any special outreach activities in languages other than Japanese for foreigners in Japan?
A1: We are hosting an English language website and also we have an English version of the Organ Donation Decision Card.
Q2: If the foreigners living in or traveling in Japan die or suffer brain death, can they be donors?
A2: Yes, they can. In any other country, a person can be a donor based on the country’s law system when the person is dead.
Q3: If a foreigner can be a donor, how do medical staff confirm the person’s or family members’ will and how do they treat them after the operation?
A3: The medical staff treat the foreigners with time and care and communicate though interpreters just the same as they do for usual medical treatments.
Q4: Can foreigners living in Japan register on the waiting list for organ transplants, if they want to receive an organ transplant because of some disease?
A4: Yes they can, but the number of organ donations is really small in Japan, so there are few cases of foreign people visiting Japan looking for organ transplants. More often, Japanese people go abroad to seek organ transplants.
Q5: Is there any case where a foreigner living in Japan registered on the waiting list and actually received an organ in the end?
A5: There is no data to identify each recipient’s nationality, and such personal information is never disclosed’. There might be a case where the name seems Japanese but where the person is a foreigner, but please note that we don’t distinguish recipients based on their nationality.
Q6: In order to register on the waiting list, are there any special limits or conditions that apply to foreigner?
A6: There are no such conditions or limits.
Now, I would like to ask all readers:
How would you decide if you were asked to be an organ donor, or if you had to make a decision for a recently deceased family member?
What kind of medical system would you hope if you were or if one of your family members was a recipient?
In Enjoyable Philosophy vol.3, which is only in Japanese unfortunately, we featured some advice on how to make such decisions by Japanese philosophers and a law scholar. Now that we are required in Japan to state our desire in our wills regarding organ transplant , it might be a good idea to seek advice from your religion, if you have one, but if you want to decide by yourself after deep deliberation, this volume could be a good reference for you. I always dither when trying to decide the best way to go whenever I listened to the stories from many different types of people, but I re-read this volume and think again about my living will accordingly.