Seeking medical redress and keeping control of Spam


What a day we live in! I am writing this week’s column from Los Angeles, where The Japan Helpline began in 1975 and where we have our U.S. offices. As usual, we had an emergency here!

These days, though, with the Internet and satellite TV, life is becoming seamless. Three Japanese TV networks — it’s like being at home.

Thank you so much for all the messages — It is so nice to hear from so many people not only in Japan but throughout the world. Keep ’em coming and the ideas, suggestions and contacts — as usual the best advice comes from our readers — we are just here to pass it on.

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Bad Hospital

I had a Caesarean section in December of last year. The result is a vertical scar that is 15 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. I would like to complain about this and some other things that happened at the hospital. Is there a place to do this? And can I do it in English? — Sapporo reader

That is really too bad. I am so sorry. At the same time, this is a problem that most Japanese face at one time or another. In Japan, as you know, there is a National Health Insurance Program, which covers everybody. The result is probably one of the best general medical care systems in the world, but not as good a critical care system.

There are a number of ways to work around the system. It’s best to have a “family doctor.” If you have someone you know and can develop a relationship with this will make a major difference in working the system.

The best way to use the system to your advantage is to study up on the procedure you are having, have your home doctor in your own country send advice and be firm that you want it done a specific way that you feel from your study is the best and most current procedure.

If, as in your case, there’s a problem later, there is some recourse. First, please give the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare a call at 03-5253-1111. Their Web site is www.mhlw.go.jp/english. Make sure you have all your paperwork ready, including the information from the hospital, pictures of before and after (if you can get them) and a simple outline of what happened, the situation now and what specifically you want to be done. The final part is very important. Do you want them to “fix” it, do you want compensation etc.

Next, you should contact an attorney. The Sapporo Bar Association (for our reader) is at 011-281-2428. Also check out www.toben.or.jp Make sure to have the same information as that which you passed on to the Ministry.

Finally, you may want to consider having plastic surgery. These days, the procedures are so simple that you should end up with a very thin, hardly recognizable line, depending on your situation. Speak to Mr. Fukuda at the Otsuka Clinic at 03-3949-1611. We have spoken to them for you and they will do their best to help you. They also have an office in Sapporo.

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Help for a friend

My oldest Japanese friend — we met in 1967 at Yale Graduate School where I was a student and he was a visiting scholar and translator of the autobiography of Malcom X — recently had the remainder of his stomach removed due to cancer. His already slight weight has dropped to the point where I am seriously worried about his ability to recover from the operation. I have airmailed him a dozen cans of Ensure, the high calorie nutritional drink, but I would like very much to find a place for him to get Ensure or something similar in Japan. — Joseph in Tokyo

It’s wonderful that you are caring so much for your friend of over 30 years. The best place to find Ensure, or something like it, is at the America Pharmacy in Tokyo. The closest station is Yurakucho and the telephone number is 03-3271-4034. The e-mail address is ap-yurakucho@par.odn.co.jp

As usual we put a call out to our readers. If anyone out there knows something similar to Ensure available in Japan, could you let us know?

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I read in The Japan Times that from July 2002, new anti-Spam legislation is in effect. No details were provided and I cannot find any English information on the Internet. I am getting swamped with Spam — unsolicited commercial e-mail – and quite a number originate from Japan. I’m wondering what the anti-Spam laws are about. Can you possibly find out the details on the new laws and let us Spam victims know? — Pat

You’ve hit on a big problem for many here in Japan, in particular for cellular telephone users. The law you are talking about, insofar as we have been able to find out, has three parts.

Firstly, it requires senders to clearly state that it is an advertisement. Secondly, e-mail cannot be sent to someone who, either by telephone or e-mail. has previously refused it; and lastly, telecommunications carriers can remove e-mails that cause problems to their system. That essentially is the law.

In addition you can go to your local NTT office and have your cellular telephone adjusted to stop Spam. There are a number of software products too that will help you stop Spam.

Once again we will put it out to our readers. Does anyone out there have any good ideas to stop Spam? If so, please let us know!

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The U.S. Embassy sends out a regular e-mail newsletter according to head of Citizen Services, Peter Van Buren. Peter has worked very hard since coming to Japan to put together a really user friendly site. Go to www.usembassy.gov.state/tokyo then to “citizen services” to sign up for the regular newsletter. Great job Peter. If other embassies have similar services, please let us know.

Need quick printing of name cards and just about everything in between? Call Mr. Okusa at 03-3432-1321 or e-mail at okusa@mprint.co.jp

Airline tickets on the Internet, called “E-tickets” that you can purchase in the U.S. and use when you travel to Japan ? E-mail Mr. Watanabe at: info@gatewaylax.com

We have gotten a number of requests for a handyman service with help from home repairs to computers. The e-mail address again is benriyasan@hotmail.com or phone: 090-1506-8921. Benriyasan is Japanese for “everythingman.”