OSAKA — The Osaka District Court on Monday ordered a company that owns a failed Osaka ophthalmic hospital to pay about 100 million yen to 16 patients who suffered eye damage from the hospital’s laser surgery.

Forty-seven patients, many from Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, had been demanding 470 million yen in damages from the owner of now-closed Kagawa Ophthalmic Hospital in Yodogawa Ward, Osaka. They claimed the operations caused abnormal farsightedness and sensitivity to light.

Presiding Judge Makoto Wakabayashi ruled in favor of 16 patients, ordering the company to pay each an amount ranging between 1.78 million yen and 10 million yen. But he dismissed the claims of the other 31 on grounds that the company, which took over the hospital after their surgeries had been performed, cannot be held responsible.

All of the plaintiffs plan to appeal because the company liquidating the hospital said it is not financially capable of paying the damages. Judge Wakabayashi said in his ruling that the eye surgery, known as radial keratotomy, was “not something established as appropriate treatment,” and that the operations “lacked urgency and medical justification.”

“The doctors only stressed the surgery’s merit to patients and neglected their duty to warn of its dangers, and conducted an operation on the same day they explained it,” the court said. “They deprived the patients of an opportunity to decide not to receive the surgery.”

According to the court, the hospital convinced the 47 patients to undergo surgery in 1991 and 1992, claiming the procedure would improve their eyesight by 10 times. The victims paid 700,000 yen each to have their corneas sliced by surgeons who were not specialized in ophthalmology, it said.

Four former hospital officials, including doctors in charge of the surgical and sales staff, have admitted wrongdoing and agreed to settle the manner out of court by paying a total of 46 million yen.

Kohei Oda, a lawyer who represented the victims, hailed the court’s acknowledgment of the doctors’ failure to explain the surgical dangers in advance, but expressed displeasure over the fact that some plaintiffs’ claims were rejected.

“Radial keratotomy is often conducted by companies with slipshod management practices, due to their desire to make money,” Oda said. “It is often undertaken by nonspecialists. We want the court to save such victims in consideration of this kind of situation.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.