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Parents explain why they donated organs of dead 4-year-old daughter

18 Comments

In 2010, an amendment to the Organ Transplant Law recognized as potential organ donors brain-dead children aged 15 and under. What did this have to do with the “Shimizu” family of central Japan’s Tokai region? Nothing, at the time. A lot, ultimately.

Their daughter, “Nozomi,” was born, as it happens, that year. Last October she had a sudden attack of vomiting. Taken to hospital, she was found to have an enlarged heart. Drug treatment didn’t work. Flown by emergency helicopter to a hospital affiliated with Osaka University, Nozomi was declared in critical condition. Doctors there gave the family the awful news: the child would need an artificial heart to tide her over until a transplant could be arranged. It was her last chance, they said; she was deteriorating rapidly.

The heart would have to be a simplified device to be suitable for so small a child. Nothing on the domestic market would do. A certain manufacturer in Berlin was the source to appeal to. It had what was required, but there was one problem: the device had not been approved for use in Japan, though in wide use overseas.

Japan’s notorious laggardness with respect to approving new medical products has spawned a neologism – “device lag.” Actually, as Shukan Post (Feb 6) tells the story, the government’s foot-dragging in his case is not entirely groundless. The operation involved is risky, with a 20% failure rate. But desperation breeds resolve, and the Shimizus were desperate. One way out was to enter Nozomi as a subject in ongoing tests of the apparatus.

Impossible, however. On Dec 8 the child suffered a brain hemorrhage, disqualifying her from participation.

What to do? She needed the artificial heart. She would die without it. The family, backed by the girl’s lead physician, made a direct appeal to Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki via his homepage. The appeal included photos of Nozomi, heavily intubated.

Unfortunately, Shiozaki and the rest of the government were busy just then. A national election had been called in November, and campaigning was in full swing. Election day was Dec 16. Shiozaki’s governing Liberal Democratic Party won a crushing victory. Next on the agenda was the inauguration of a new cabinet. That was on Dec 26.

Now, perhaps? Well, yes. The wheels turn slowly, but they do turn, and on Jan 20 came the official special permission required. Unfortunately the child had died in the meantime.

“Losing a child is much worse than dying yourself,” the girl’s father, “Tetsuhiro,” tells Shukan Post. Was there no good to be extracted from the tragedy? There did seem one thing they could do – donate her organs. Since the 2010 amendment, only two brain-dead children under 7 had donated organs to other children who would die without them. Nozomi was the third, her lungs, liver and kidneys going to waiting children in the Kansai area.

"We realize we can’t bring our daughter back to life,” says Tetsuhiro. “So it seems natural to offer her organs in order that other children may live.”

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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Some hospitals make a huge profit on these transplants and doctors also get a hefty bonus.

That needs to stop because there's a huge conflict of interest of the doctor/hospital that judges whether a child is clinically dead is the same one that financially gains from the organ transplants.

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

-25 ( +1 / -26 )

The influence of patients' rights advocates is likely nil when compared with the influence of medical industry, in the halls of the national capitol.

But re countless, it is not really a synonym for "many many", in this case. How many have you heard of?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Why should any explanation be necessary? Organ donation: It's a no-brainer.

there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later

Clinical death is not the only criterion for organ harvest. If your heart stops for two minutes, they're not going to be pulling organs out, BB. This is unhelpful scaremongering.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

Supporting evidence please.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

Countless??

10 ( +11 / -1 )

What a horror for the family. Why wasn't the Health Minister contactable?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

If it is so noteworthy and the cases are so 'countless', it should be quick work for you to provide us with these cases to which you refer.

For my part, I think you are incorrect.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Burning BushFeb. 01, 2015 - 07:00AM JST

Some hospitals make a huge profit on these transplants and doctors also get a hefty bonus.

No, they don't, or at least not in Japan. Japanese hospital fees are regulated centrally by the government and these sort of operations are incredibly expensive, require very sophisticated equipment (which is very expensive to maintain and isn't used very every day). The surgeons also spend hours on these operations, and there isn't one surgeon, but rather a full team of surgeons working together, each one on their area of speciality such as the nerve connections, the vascular system, and so forth. Not to mention the supporting personnel involved in rushing through the lab work, transporting the organs, and all the thousand other details. One tiny slip and someone dies.

Once you total up all the costs associated with these operations, the cost of other procedures cancelled or rescheduled, the cost of flying in the various specialists at virtually zero notice, the overtime for lab personnel and other costs these procedures normally have to be subsidised by local government, research funding, or other external sources.

And that's before you even factor in the extended post-operative care, which because of the way that Japanese medical insurance works, always ends up being a net loss for the hospital.

They are definitely NOT major sources of profit in Japan.

That needs to stop because there's a huge conflict of interest of the doctor/hospital that judges whether a child is clinically dead is the same one that financially gains from the organ transplants.

There is no profit in these procedures in Japan. Perhaps there is in other countries, but I know for a fact that it isn't this way in Japan. Most community hospitals are struggling to make ends meet, and the national government is slashing budgets.

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

Clinically dead just means that respiration and circulation have stopped. Drowning, cardiac arrest, some poisons, hypothermia and about 3 dozen other things can cause someone to be clinically dead for a period of time. It isn't the same as dead. Many, if not most, patients will recover completely.

Therefore the statement that children who are clinically dead have recovered is true, but also completely misleading and irrelevant.

It is like saying, "There are countless documented cases of people with heart attacks recovering!!!" ... to which people listening would look at you like you're and idiot and say, "And so?".

Clinically dead is not the same as brain dead. There is a huge difference, and until you learn that difference I'd ask you to please keep your opinions to yourself, because your ignorance is killing people.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Clinically dead is not the same as brain dead. There is a huge difference, and until you learn that difference I'd ask you to please keep your opinions to yourself, because your ignorance is killing people.

Absolutely.

This story tells us everything we need to know about the leadership of Japan. She may not have survived anyway, but to prioritize everything else he was doing over a childs life - pretty despicable.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What brave and wonderful parents to think of others at a time of such grief for their own loss. My heart goes out to them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't believe in me or my child receiving someone else's body parts and I don't believe in giving ours either. I prefer to believe many of us will do the trip to the other side together.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It's also noteworthy that there countless documented cases of children who have been declared clinically dead only to recover later.

Supporting evidence please.

He can't provide any because they're "countless". If he bothered to actually supply supporting documents, you could start counting them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bless Nozomi and her parents. Out of tragedy, hope for others. While I am very skittish on donating or receiving in such a fashion, on my own part, others must be allowed that choice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why in the year of our Lord 2015 do parents have to explain why they're taking a tragedy and change it to the gift of life for others? Their act of grace should be the norm and not the exception.

God bless them for their kind act.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A certain manufacturer in Berlin was the source to appeal to. It had what was required, but there was one problem: the device had not been approved for use in Japan, though in wide use overseas. Japan's notorious laggardness with respect to approving new medical products has spawned a neologism - "device lag." Actually, as Shukan Post (Feb 6) tells the story, the government's foot-dragging in his case is not entirely groundless. The operation involved is risky, with a 20% failure rate.

For anyone who has lived in Japan for any length of time will know the reason why the artificial heart was not approved for the Japanese market; because no Japanese medical manufacturer has yet come up with a domestic model so that they don't have to import foreign companies' products and lose market share. In the meantime, children unnecessarily die.

And 20% failure rate? Another way of saying that would be 80% success rate. For an infant who will die anyway an 80% chance of survival could in no way be considered "risky" except by those in the medical community here who have vested interests and making sure they control the market.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't believe in me or my child receiving someone else's body parts and I don't believe in giving ours either. I prefer to believe many of us will do the trip to the other side together.

Well at least I know that if I have body parts to give away, they will not go to you. Pity that you would prefer to allow others to die rather than share your useless organs from your deceased body. A bit like burning food in front of the starving.

Am always amazed by folks believe in the 21st century!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Ah_so - I wouldn't accept your body parts. Why are you amazed? in the 21st century I have the freedom to do as I please and my pleasure is to not give my (or my child's) body parts to anyone. Maybe in their next life they can have a healthy body. Cheers

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Psyops - I am amazed that you would rather die than accept organs from another but also shocked that you would see others die rather than share bits of organic matter that you no longer need. I do find this amazing that people hold this as a value for reasons that I would find hard to articulate (although clearly it has something to do with a belief in the supranatural).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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