• views of life and death;
  • brain death;
  • Japan;
  • organ transplantation


As of 2009, the number of donors in Japan is the lowest among developed countries. On July 13, 2009, Japan's Organ Transplant Law was revised for the first time in 12 years. The revised and old laws differ greatly on four primary points: the definition of death, age requirements for donors, requirements for brain-death determination and organ extraction, and the appropriateness of priority transplants for relatives.

In the four months of deliberations in the National Diet before the new law was established, various arguments regarding brain death and organ transplantation were offered. An amazing variety of opinions continue to be offered, even after more than 40 years have elapsed since the first heart organ transplant in Japan. Some are of the opinion that with the passage of the revised law, Japan will finally become capable of performing transplants according to global standards. Contrarily, there are assertions that organ transplants from brain-dead donors are unacceptable because they result in organs being taken from living human beings.

Considering the current conditions, we will organize and introduce the arguments for and against organ transplants from brain-dead donors in contemporary Japan. Subsequently, we will discuss the primary arguments against organ transplants from brain-dead donors from the perspective of contemporary Japanese views on life and death. After introducing the recent view that brain death should not be regarded as equivalent to the death of a human being, we would like to probe the deeply-rooted views on life and death upon which it is based.