| HIROO'S DISINFECTANT DRIP|
Kin win 60 million yen for malpractice death
The Tokyo District Court on Friday awarded 60 million yen to the family of a patient who died in a Tokyo hospital in 1999 after being administered disinfectant through an intravenous drip.
The compensation is to be paid by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the former head of the hospital and a doctor there.
Etsuko Nagai, 58, had surgery on her middle finger Feb. 10, 1999, at Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital in Shibuya Ward after checking in for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
The next day, a nurse mistakenly hooked up Nagai to an intravenous drip filled with disinfectant instead of a saline solution.
Hospital officials met to discuss the death the following day, but waited 11 days before reporting it to police.
Presiding Judge Tasuku Daimon ruled that the former head of the hospital and the doctor should pay damages because they falsified the woman's medical records to make it appear as though she died of illness, even though an autopsy showed that a mistake in the drip was the probable cause of death.
He also noted that the pair delayed reporting the incident to police.
He fined the former director 1 million yen and the doctor 500,000 yen.
Their contribution will be a part of the 60.28 million yen that the metro government was ordered to pay to the family.
The family had argued that the accident was due to the hospital's negligence in implementing measures to prevent malpractice.
But the judge ruled that the malpractice was due to basic negligence on the part of the two nurses caring for Nagai who failed to confirm what was in the drips, instead of a structural problem within the hospital system. The metro government did not dispute the issue of the nurses' negligence.
The family had demanded 145 million yen in compensation, including payment for suffering caused by the hospital's attempts to conceal the cause of Nagai's death.
Nagai's husband, Hiroyuki, 68, shed tears of joy after the ruling, saying his heart had not had a day of peace since her death.
The ruling "comes right before the fifth anniversary of her death, and I can finally tell her that we've come this far," he said.
He called the ruling a landmark because it recognized the responsibility of individuals.
"Every time I sat in the gallery to listen to the sessions, I kept recalling the day my wife died," he said. "I hope the ruling is not appealed, because those unbearable days will begin for me again.
"Perhaps it is a matter of course among doctors (to not accept responsibility for a blunder), but it is common sense in society for a person to take responsibility for a mistake."
Five people have been indicted for criminal responsibility in connection with the malpractice case.
The former hospital head was sentenced in August 2001 to a suspended one-year prison term and fined 20,000 yen for drafting a false official document and violating the Medical Practitioner Law. The doctor, whose name was not provided, has appealed the ruling.
In December 2000, the two nurses involved in preparing and administering the poisonous drip were also given suspended prison terms, of eight months and one year.
The doctor attending to Nagai received a court summary order and was fined.
The Japan Times: Jan. 31, 2004
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