Chubu Hospital conducts first organ harvest in Okinawa

A man in his 30s who had been hospitalized with hypoxic encephalopathy, a condition caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, at Okinawa Prefectural Chubu Hospital was pronounced brain dead under the Japanese Organ Transplant Law at 5:55 a.m. Mar. 7th. This is the fist time the law has been evoked in a medical institution on Okinawa.

In the early morning of Mar. 8th a surgery to harvest his organs was conducted at the hospital. Medical teams from various hospitals that were scheduled to receive his organs removed his heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys, which were delivered to Naha Airport by helicopter and taxis for transfer to hospitals off the island.

The harvest surgery commenced at 5:56 a.m. and was finished in about 30 minutes.  A medical team from the University of Tokyo Hospital arrived at Chubu Hospital on previous night to prepare for removing the heart for a transplant to a man in his 50s. Next, teams from Nagasaki University, Keio University and Kyushu University Hospitals conducted one after another the surgeries to remove the lungs, liver, pancreas and one kidney.  The second kidney was transplanted into a local patient in the Chubu Hospital.

The donor had not indicated a willingness to donate his organs, however, his family agreed and gave the permission.  This was the 317th case in Japan, in which the patient is declared brain dead since the Organ Transplant Law that recognizes the brain death went into effect in 1997.  Prior to that the death could be declared only after the heart had stopped, and organ transplants from dead donors was banned for nearly 30 years.