The center of the brain-death and organ transplantation debate in Japan has always been whether whole brain-death should be regarded as the death of a person. However, the debate has not yet been settled in Japanese society. There are four main reasons why it is said that whole brain-death criteria are incompatible with Japanese society. First, they cannot establish a person's death because the Japanese define it not according to medical facts but according to social relationships. Second, it is impossible to determine societal consensus in Japan on this issue. Third, traditional Japanese views toward life and death are incompatible with whole brain-death criteria. Fourth, whole brain-death criteria for the purpose of organ-transplantation is incompatible with the Japanese ethics that emphasizes relationships. The more ongoing and more intimate the relationships are between family members and the deceased, the more probable it is that family members will perceive him or her a living person and the less likely it is that they will accept whole brain-death criteria with respect to their beloved one. The essential cause of these problems is the "wall" between the two sides which implies insensitivity and indifference to the needs of those on the other side; What is missing in the controversy is a mutual understanding of these issues on the part of those on both the donor and the recipient sides. Because the Japanese people do not have a special ethics like Christian neighbor-love, one form of moral imagination which helps North Americans see strangers as if they are loved ones, and because the Japanese do not have the custom of giving gifts without reciprocity, it is unrealistic to expect them to donate organs to strangers. The most promising solution would be to abolish the ordinary practice of maintaining anonymity between those on the donor and the recipient sides so that each is finally able to become more realistic about the needs of those on the other side.

LLU Discipline

Biomedical and Clinical Ethics




Graduate School

First Advisor

Larson, David R.

Second Advisor

Carr, Mark

Third Advisor

Orr, Robert D.

Fourth Advisor

Venden, Louis

Fifth Advisor

Walters, James W.

Sixth Advisor

Winslow, Gerald R.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Brain Death; Organ Transplantation - Japan; Ethic; Medical; Family Relations - Japan

Subject - Local

Whole Brain Death; Death of Person; Japanese Social Relationship



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives