Osaka hospital sued over suspicious death

OSAKA — Sisters of a female patient who died under suspicious circumstances at Osaka Ensei Hospital in Higashi Sumiyoshi Ward here filed a lawsuit May 14 with the Osaka District Court against the hospital’s medical corporation, seeking 11 million yen in damages.

The woman was admitted to Yamatogawa Hospital, a mental institution in Kashiwara, Osaka Prefecture, in April 1994. According to the plaintiffs, who requested anonymity, she appeared to be improving after two months of care at the hospital.

However, she contracted a fever and started running a temperature of more than 40 degrees. She was transferred to Osaka Ensei Hospital on July 6, 1994, and died the same day.

The hospitals diagnosed the patient as suffering from pneumonia, according to the plaintiffs’ written complaint. They claimed that both hospitals failed to conduct the necessary medical examinations to diagnose the woman’s condition or give the appropriate treatment.

The two hospitals are run by the Kita Nishiki-kai medical corporation, part of the Yasuda Hospital group. The group, which includes Yasuda Hospital in Sumiyoshi Ward, was raided by the Osaka Labor Standards Inspection Bureau in March for alleged violations of the Labor Standards Law. It is suspected that the group failed to pay wages and that its activities involved labor malpractice.

The Osaka Prefectural and Municipal governments also inspected the three hospitals the same month in response to allegations that the institutions padded the number of people they employed. “We want to reveal what really happened to our sister through this litigation,” said the husband of one of the plaintiffs, who also declined to be named.

He said it takes about one hour to drive between the Yamatogawa and Osaka Ensei hospitals. “I wonder why hospital authorities did not choose a closer hospital to move the patient to if her condition required urgent treatment,” he said.

Hiroshi Ida, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said police conducted an autopsy on the body but the results were not disclosed. He said he wants the postmortem record opened before the court.

About 20 patients at Yamatogawa Hospital have asked the Osaka Prefectural Mental Medical Service Screening Council to allow them to be discharged, and several have already been released. The Yasuda group meanwhile submitted to local governments earlier this month a plan to improve its medical systems.