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The Health Ministry plans to draw up three rules for medical institutions to follow in an effort to curb the rising number of medical malpractice cases, ministry sources said Sunday.

Under the plan, the ministry itself will decide whether medical institutions such as hospitals and clinics would have to file a report with police, consult with police or do nothing about the malpractice case in question, the sources said.

In each case, the ministry would take into account any causal relationship between the doctors’ treatment and the unexpected patient deaths or injuries, and a course of action would be followed regardless of whether doctors actually made mistakes or not, the sources added.

A recent spate of malpractice incidents resulting in dead patients or seriously injured patients has led many in Japan to believe that medical institutions often fail to report malpractice to police. The number of lawsuits seeking compensation for malpractice reached a record high of 638 in 1999, according to a Supreme Court report.

The proposed antimalpractice measures would force medical institutions to report to police any case in which hospitals fail to determine the causal relationship between treatments administered and unexpected deaths or injuries among their patients, according to the sources.

It would be the first time the government has drawn up such a plan.

The ministry aims to formulate the plan around August and have some 220 medical institutions across Japan adopt it after summer, the sources said.

Under the plan, hospitals would also have to report unexpected patient deaths or injuries to police if there is a clear causal relationship between treatment by doctors and patient results, even if a third party finds that doctors made no mistakes.

Hospitals would have to consult with police on cases in which they failed to find the reason for unexpected deaths or injuries.

Hospitals would not have to report to or consult with police if they could prove the causal relationship, according to the plan.

“Malpractice is often caused by mistakes. We would like to call on (medical institutions) to report to or consult with police about unexpected deaths or injuries of patients unless they can clearly deny the causal relationship between the actual treatment and unexpected death or injury,” a senior ministry official said.