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A surgery patient fell into a coma in mid-May at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital due to suspected malpractice, informed sources said Friday.

The sources did not disclose the name or gender of the patient, saying only that the case involved someone in their 20s who underwent surgery in May at the hospital, which is located in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward. The patient temporarily stopped breathing after being administered a sleeping drug on May 14, the sources said.

It is suspected that a doctor misinformed nurses about the dose of the drug, which the doctor administered to help the patient rest, the sources said.

The sources said nurses found the patient had stopped breathing during a routine check on inpatients at midnight May 14. The patient was later found to have suffered serious brain damage, they added.

The patient, who is breathing with the aid of a respirator at present, is not brain dead, they said.

The hospital was expected to hold a press conference later Friday to reveal more details of the incident.

Malpractice indictments

Prosecutors have indicted the former head of a Tokyo hospital and a former Tokyo Metropolitan Government official in connection with a malpractice incident last year in which disinfectant was accidentally intravenously administered to a patient, causing her death.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Kiyoshi Okai, 64, head of Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital at the time of the incident, and Yoshikazu Akiyama, 51, a senior official of the metro government’s Bureau of Public Health, on suspicion of violating the Medical Law.

Prosecutors also indicted nurses Haruko Kamei, 30, and Takako Tannai, 26, for alleged professional negligence resulting in death.

The doctor in charge of the patient was given a summary indictment, but his name has not been released.

Indictments for violations of the law, which imposes penalties of no more than 20,000 yen, are rare.

The family of Etsuko Nagai, 58, who died in the accident, announced the same day that they plan to file a damages suit against Okai and the metro government.

According to the indictments, Nagai was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and was hospitalized on Feb. 8, 1999. She underwent an operation on a joint in her middle finger on her left hand two days later.

She complained of intense chest pain and was given a drip by Tannai at around 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 11. Kamei mistakenly gave her disinfectant.

After she complained again, the doctor gave her a different agent using the same tube, injecting all the disinfectant left in the tube. Nagai died of acute heart failure, according to the indictments.

Okai and Akiyama failed to report the incident to police, in violation of the law, which requires that medical practitioners report an “abnormal death” to investigative authorities within 24 hours.

Okai also reportedly gave the family a false report stating Nagai’s death was due to a “natural cause as a result of an illness.”

Akiyama allegedly told hospital authorities to “wait a minute before reporting” the case to police when they consulted with him the next day.

The cases of nine people involved in the alleged malpractice had earlier been sent to prosecutors. Five were indicted Thursday, but prosecutors dropped the cases against the remaining four.

The metropolitan government’s Bureau of Public Health issued a statement concerning the charges against Akiyama, saying, “The entire bureau is now working on a way to prevent the recurrence of such medical accidents, and will work even harder to regain the trust of the people.”

But Tokyo officials continued to insist that Akiyama’s act was caused in part by a “difference in interpretation” of Article 21 of the Medical Law, which stipulates that abnormal deaths must be reported to the police.

Tokyo officials had previously not reported deaths suspected to be due to malpractice, they said.

Akiyama also admitted that he had changed the medical records “out of good intentions” for insurance claims, bureau officials said.