75-year-old Japanese Man Dies After Hospitals Reject Him 36 Times

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KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP/Getty Images

An evacuee is carried to an ambulance after a powerful 2007 earthquake.

In January, a 75-year-old Japanese man called an ambulance after suffering from breathing problems. Instead of being saved, he died after 25 hospitals rejected him 36 times during a two-hour drive to find a doctor who would treat him, Agence France-Presse reported.

According to Rocketnews24, the man, who lived alone in the city of Kuki in Saitama prefecture, called an ambulance around midnight. Paramedics soon arrived, but all 25 hospitals in the area refused to accept him, reportedly giving reasons like “lack of available doctors” and “ a shortage of beds.”

Paramedics finally found a hospital in neighboring Ibaraki prefecture, another 20 minutes away, but the man was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. According to AFP, the cause of death is still unknown.

(More: Japanese Longevity- How Long Will It Last?)

The issue is becoming a matter of increasing concern for Japanese health care experts; the man from Kuki is not the first to die after being turned away by hospitals. According to the Huffington Post, a 69-year-old Japanese man died in 2009 of head injuries after 14 hospitals refused to treat him, citing similar reasons. In fact, a 2007 Japanese government report said as many as 14,000 emergency patients were rejected at least three times before getting treatment, noted the Huffington Post.

Ironically, experts say, part of the problem lies in Japan’s low-cost healthcare system. According to the Washington Post, a hospital visit costs half as much in Japan as it does in the U.S. thanks to government subsidies — but as a result, emergency rooms are often flooded with patients seeking routine treatments. Problematically, there are no laws punishing hospitals for turning away sick people or penalties for patients who overuse the system.

A Kuki official told AFP that the city had asked hospitals to improve their emergency room capacity, but that may not be enough. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, Japan’s demand for medical care will triple in the next 25 years as its population ages, and the current healthcare system is not sustainable without an overhaul.

(More: Are Japan’s Emergency Rooms in Trouble?)

31 comments
swagger
swagger like.author.displayName 1 Like

except for the government subsidies it looks like the republican health care model.

evelynhawa
evelynhawa

oohh dear! we say thats how Allah planned his death but surely those hospitals deserve to be sued 

MichaelSteigerwald
MichaelSteigerwald

Thats why we need universal healthcare to stop the over crowding of american ERs.

Ash
Ash like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 11 Like

Lived in Japan for 16 years.  My daughter was born there and had a serious operation as a baby.  I was hospitalized as well so know the Japanese healthcare system pretty well.  It isn't perfect and it isn't quite as plush as ours but it is an efficient, reasonably priced system that delivers healthcare to all its citizens.  This isn't the first time I have seen an account like this from Japan in the foreign press and my thought is that there is a misunderstanding/mistranslation of the word in Japanese for "hospital."  Some Japanese "hospitals" are little more than clinics/doctor offices with a few beds and not the large and complicated organization we as Americans think of as a hospital.  I can give you an example:  When my daughter was in elementary school in Japan she smashed her finger pretty badly in a accident involving a large, heavy metal door.  We drove her to the nearest "hospital" and were turned away like the man in the story.  We were told that her injury was beyond their capability to treat and so we drove her to what an American would think of as a hospital where she was treated quickly. 


The article mentions "25 hospitals" refused him.  That is another indication that he was driven not to what Americans think of as a hospital but instead a clinic with beds:  there probably is n o region in Japan with a concentration of American style hospitals like that all within a ambulance drive of each other and certainly not in the area identified.  

eaudryn
eaudryn

@Ash Thank you for your excellent explanation; that makes a lot more sense!

Ash
Ash like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

To further put it into perspective, imagine driving the same 75 year old man around to 25 different doctor offices in America.  What would you be told/  To take him to the emergency room.  This is what happened more or less in Japan, except the doctor offices have beds for patients who need to stay overnight.

This was more a case of there not being an emergency room nearby that could treat him rather than a case of being rejected 36 times by what Americans think of as a hospital. 


martystagfish
martystagfish

This already happens in the United States. Articles on examples are easy to find with a quick google search

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight like.author.displayName 1 Like

@martystagfish I would love to hear your theories on this. One of the 1st things you see at ANY American hospital which collects medicare funds ( almost every medical center in the US) is a sign that spells out your rights and responsibilities, usually near the bottom in small print is a blurb about EMTALA. 

EMTALA or the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was a law signed by President Reagan which requires hospitals to triage and stabilize ANY American who come through the door. Realistically that means anyone who enters because a hospital that accidently turns away a legal citizen risks loosing medicare funding. 

I would recommend that instead of relying on extremists bloggers and politically invested "News" you take some time to actually read up on laws and maybe talk to  some medical professionals. 

And just for fairness I googled "pt turned away from hospital", "hospital refused to help", "can hospitals refuse to treat " At the top of EVERY one of those searches was article spelling out your rights, articles about hospitals getting sued for breaking the law oh and an assortment of old debunked "death panel" sites

bigdxn
bigdxn

YokohamaCare...??

j95lee
j95lee like.author.displayName 1 Like

Don't worry, this won't happen in the United States. Not unless the hospitals want to get sued to death. The healthcare cost though, will go through the roof. Thank goodness we can print money endlessly.

jsnwsch
jsnwsch like.author.displayName 1 Like

Coming soon to an America near you.

Elections have consequences.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jsnwsch Would you care to explain your post or are you just regurgitating  talking points that you heard that came from a pundit with absolutly no clue what he or she is talking about?

Heian
Heian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@jsnwsch Which America? South America? Central America?

You can't mean the United States of America, because that would just be an idiotic thing to say. It would be like waving your arms and yelling "I have a wildly uninformed opinion!"

auronlu
auronlu like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Well, Romney should like this. Didn't he say universal health care was a waste because we could just go to emergency rooms if we need medical care? 

swagger
swagger like.author.displayName 1 Like

@auronlu  my emergency room, no insurance, visit and subsequent operation probaly cost taxpayers at least a half million dollars when a regular local community clinic checkup could have caught my problem sooner.  then what?  i'd still have to go through the emergency room to get indigent care.

medicare for all, single payer would cost society much less than our current system despite what the right wing and insurance racket might say.

pudlmoms
pudlmoms like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

Can we just stop bashing Obama for every article posted on the Net?  Stop the whining about healthcare; it's happening so if you don't want to use it, go sit behind a shrub and pout.

Chosun1
Chosun1

Or just leave the USA....

ChrisTK
ChrisTK

http://www.globalhealthfacts.org/data/topic/map.aspx?ind=78

Japan ranked 1st in Hospital Beds/10k population. And they don't have enough beds?

Ash
Ash like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

@ChrisTK See my explanation above.  This article suffers the same defect that most pieces on Japan do:  the facts are taken out of context.

Chosun1
Chosun1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Japan sticks you in beds for things they'd never think of putting you in a bed for in the USA.  The systems are just totally different.  Beds/population figures are comparing apples and oranges.  Japanese and Koreans call just about any type of health clinic a "hospital"....  It's not just a mis-translation:  It is just that they don't differentiate between clinics and hospitals in their own languages, so they don't differentiate in translations into English.

tjones
tjones like.author.displayName 1 Like

Coming to a hospital near you soon.  Thank you Obama for devising the same type of healthcare for us so we can work hard all our life and not be able to get healthcare in the end.

swagger
swagger like.author.displayName 1 Like

@tjones obama obama obama. save your tired old odrama for your omama or your gun club circle jerks where someone might care about your ignorant bigot slurs.

jamesf161
jamesf161

@tjones my grandfather has received perfectly adequate treatment for various issues requiring hospitalization in New Zealand, which has a universal healthcare system. Despite our small population, we have similar she breakdown. Never heard of anything like this either. So, I don't think you have a legit settlement there.

joeaverager
joeaverager like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

@tjones Oh get over it - Romney lost, the GOP is a confused mess. Obama isn't doing a bad job at all. Everything coming from the right is a bunch of hyperbolic hand-wringing and very little constructive leadership. 

frankwall1965
frankwall1965

Something needs to be done urgently. Perhaps people need to be educated more on what's a genuine emergency. Sheer idiocy.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName 1 Like

Chalk another kill up to the idiot public seeking emergency care for sprained ankles.

universal93
universal93 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The hospitals are killing, without killing...!!

Buddysattva
Buddysattva

Uh huh . . .  This is the country and culture so famous for respecting and honoring the elderly . . .

Chosun1
Chosun1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Respect for money overshadows respect for elders.  Remember, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Buddysattva It was famous for that. But lately, much less so. Not only is the whole country and culture becoming "youth oriented", but violent crime against the elderly, unheard of during the bubble economy, is now a major social problem.