Black market organ trade uncovered in Japan

Strict regulations in Japan have failed to stop a black market trade in organs. This week police arrested 5 people over a kidney transplant organised through a yakuza gang.

The deal was complicated. A 55-year-old doctor, Toshinobu Horiuchi, suffered from kidney failure. He made inquiries about donors in the Philippines, but this fell through after a 2008 international agreement calling for a voluntary ban on cross-border transplants. Then, at a bar, he met the wife of a yakuza who promised to arrange a donor for 10 million yen (US$125,000). Horiuchi was introduced to a 48-year-old former gangster who was to be the donor. In Japan organ donors must be at least distant family members, so Horiuchi also faked adoption papers. Then the deal fell through when the yakuza asked for another 10 million yen.

Finally, Horiuchi adopted a 20-year-old man who eventually donated his kidney. Police are investigating whether he paid for it. The man has disappeared. 

A medical expert told the Mainichi Shimbun that this was "the worst development imaginable" as it showed that strict guidelines on organ donation could be circumvented. The newspaper said that yakuza seek out heavily-indebted donors through loan sharks. Fraudulent marriages and adoptions are a common tactic. ~ Mainichi Shimbun, June 24, Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | Japan, organ donation, organ market

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