Asahi Shimbun [19 April 2002] "Liver sparked war of words in Kono family "

April 19, 2002 12:00 AM

Asahi Shimbun [19 April 2002]
"Liver sparked war of words in Kono family "

Former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono is indebted to his Diet member son in an unusual way. He owes him his life, an issue over which the two men with bull-headed reputations clashed repeatedly.

The elder Kono, 65, underwent the transplant for a new liver on Wednesday in an operation that took 15 hours.

His son, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taro Kono, 39, had a hard time persuading his father to accept the gift of life, say insiders.

Both men have a reputation for stubborness.

``I can't countenance the idea of my son being cut open so I can be kept alive,'' said Kono at an emergency family meeting in mid-March. ``If my life is going to be over in a few years without the operation, so be it.''

Few organ transplant operations are performed where the donor is a sibling.

But Taro Kono is a keen advocate and he carries a donor card in his wallet. He was persistent.

When his father was foreign minister, the two engaged in a famous heated debate on the Diet floor over U.S. nuclear arms policy. Neither gave an inch.

So when it came to the transplant, the younger Kono snapped: ``Oh, dad, just shut up. I'm saying it's all right, so please go ahead and just do it.''

The frustrated son's eyes were watering when he spoke to his father this way.

The elder Kono, hospitalized in a Tokyo hospital since late January, gave in.

Rumors circulating in Nagatacho at that time had Kono on the verge of death.

He was transferred April 7 to the Shinshu University School of Medicine and Hospital in Nagano Prefecture, which had already performed 168 live donor transplants.

Before going, the senior politician told members of his LDP Kono faction, ``I am going to receive part of Taro's liver. Think about it. It may make me even more stubborn.

More than two million people suffer from hepatitis C in Japan. Not all of them will be lucky enough to receive a healthy liver.

``I am extremely lucky to have such a good son,'' the father said.