Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Over 20 years have passed since the original Japanese organ transplantation law was established in 1997, after a long intermission due to the Wada Case (1968). No organ transplant operations from brain-dead donors were performed in Japan during 1969–1998 – only kidney transplants from blood-family members. Japanese organ transplant candidates faced severe shortages; some became medical refugees overseas and most recipients relied on living donors both domestically and internationally.
Because of the low number of transplants, the law was revised in 2010 and organ donation numbers quickly increased eightfold: total donations to date (03/21/2019) stand at 589. Nevertheless, the organ shortage in Japan is still the most severe worldwide for two reasons: a rapid increase in candidates needing transplants and too few donated organs.
I began my research into concerned parties (transplant surgeons, recipients, and donor families) in 2002, conducting interviews and analyzing data from the perspective of bioethical and cultural issues related to organ transplantation. We have remained in contact for many years, and my follow-up research has revealed significant aftercare problems among recipients, living donors and the families of deceased donors.
I am continuing to trace concerned parties to reconsider and reveal their care situations after organ donation/reception, examining both individual situations and national government policy for helping current research at this important stage of the organ transplantation cycle. As my research draws to a close, I am also trying to formalize my opinions of organ transplantation as not just a medical procedure but a whole “life-course” issue.