Director of NPO Sentenced to 8 Months in Prison for Organ Transplant Scheme Involving Japanese Patients in Belarus (Update 1)

The Tokyo District Court has handed a prison sentence of eight months to the director of a nonprofit organization for his involvement in organizing organ transplants in Belarus for Japanese patients. Hiromichi Kikuchi, 63, who leads the Intractable Disease Patient Support Association, was found guilty of violating the Organ Transplants Law by facilitating unauthorized organ transplants overseas.

The prosecution had initially sought a one-year prison sentence and a ¥1 million fine for Kikuchi. In addition, the NPO was instructed to pay a fine of ¥1 million, aligning with the demands of the prosecutors. This case marks the first instance in which a court has ruled on the facilitation of organ transplants overseas since the law was enacted in 1997.

According to the indictment and other sources, Kikuchi recommended two individuals with liver cirrhosis and kidney failure to undergo organ transplants in Belarus, between January 2021 and July 2022. The NPO allegedly received ¥51.5 million to cover the surgeries and other associated costs. Both patients received transplants, but the man with liver cirrhosis passed away approximately nine months after the surgery.

The indictment revealed that Kikuchi did not possess a license from the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry to organize such procedures. During the first trial hearing in June, the defense admitted to the accuracy of the facts but argued that Japanese law does not apply to transplant surgeries performed overseas.

In his closing statement, Kikuchi asserted that he had nothing to be ashamed of and was proud of his contributions to society. On the other hand, the prosecutors contended that Kikuchi had recruited potential organ recipients and coordinated transplants with Belarusian hospitals while in Japan, constituting mediation that required permission from the health minister.

The prosecution also pointed out that Kikuchi was well aware of the possible illegality of the NPO’s activities, as he had been informed during online meetings with lawyers and university professors. They emphasized that Kikuchi had repeatedly engaged in criminal actions despite being cognizant of their illegal nature.

The Tokyo District Court’s decision sets a precedent for cases involving the facilitation of organ transplants overseas. It reaffirms the legal obligations and restrictions in place to regulate such transactions and protect the integrity of organ donation and transplantation processes. The verdict underscores the importance of adhering to established laws and regulations to safeguard the well-being of patients and uphold ethical standards in the medical field.


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