Thursday, June 14, 2012

Won't Miss #459 - organ donation hypocrisy

There was a television show called "L.A. Law" back in the mid 80's to early 90's which had an episode about kidney transplants. In the story, a wealthy Japanese businessman essentially "bought" an organ and a dying woman of more modest means who was higher on the donation recipients list was contesting his right to do so. At the time, I thought no further than the notion that a Japanese man was chosen because it was feared that Japan would take over the world with its economic might. That was probably the writer's motivation in making the character Japanese, but the truth is that there is a deeper issue about organ donation and Japan. Many Japanese have to go abroad to get organ transplants because they can't get organs back home. The Japanese overwhelmingly do not donate organs, but they will accept transplants without hesitation. This hypocrisy is fueled by Buddhist beliefs about remaining intact when you cross the river to the next life, but also by irrational fears that doctors are going to carve them up for their organs at the first opportunity and rational fears about the pain of surrendering an organ.

When discussing this topic with Japanese people, I was always frustrated by the hypocrisy and selfishness inherent in such thinking and I won't miss it.