RECIPIENT AS CANNIBAL: JAPANESE CONCERNS ABOUT THE ETHICS OF ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION

William R. LaFleur

Abstract


Because organ transplantation involves the literal taking into one body of another
body’s parts, Japanese commentators on modern biotechnology have, at least in
comparison to their Western counterparts, been willing to see parallels between
such a practice and cannibalism. This survey of that difference in sensitivity
suggests that it is part of the reason why Japan has been less willing to grant social
acceptance to such a medical procedure. Differences between Buddhism and
Christianity – since in the latter a central ritual involves the symbolic ingestion of
flesh and blood – also appear to be involved in the differing ways in which organ
transplantation from “brain-dead” persons has been evaluated not only by the
bioethicists but also by the general populace in these two constituencies.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/90-0-1054

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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