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Health Care

Japan's organ donor shortage pushes patients to look abroad

Lack of awareness and capacity limits transplants to just 19 per million

Those needing transplants often face long wait times in Japan, driving many to go overseas.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The arrest of the head of a Japanese nonprofit for allegedly facilitating an unapproved organ transplant overseas underscores long-standing problems with the donation system in a country that ranks only 44th in the world in transplants.

Japan in 1997 began allowing transplantation of organs from brain-dead donors, not just those whose hearts had stopped. But because of the uniquely strict requirements -- both written consent from the donor and permission from the family -- this did little to expand donation.

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