A panel of experts proposed Thursday that a law be established requiring doctors to provide patients access to their medical records upon request.

The panel of 13 doctors, jurists and journalists submitted its report to Health Policy Bureau chief Shuichi Tani at the Health and Welfare Ministry. The group, chaired by Akio Morishima, a professor at Sophia University, said providing medical information to patients is “a professional duty of medical staffs.”

The ministry said it will soon begin preparing the legislative measure and lay the groundwork for disclosure of information at medical institutions.

Although groups such as the Japan Medical Association have opposed such legislation, the panel concluded it is necessary to promote disclosure of medical information. The panel said the law will “strengthen mutual trust between medical staffs and patients, and improve the quality of medical care.”

However, under the proposal, family members of patients who have died would not be eligible for medical disclosure concerning the patient. Also, doctors could refuse disclosure requests if such disclosure would negatively affect patients’ treatment.

The panel urged swift action for the legislation, noting that medical records at many Japanese medical facilities are incomplete or improperly kept. “At the beginning of our discussion, many doctors opposed (the legislation) for fear that it may increase lawsuits. It is meaningful that we take a step forward,” said Morishima.

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