The Health and Welfare Ministry plans to draw up rules regarding how medical institutions handle unexpected patient deaths or injuries in an effort to curb increasing incidences of medical malpractice, ministry sources said.

Under the plan, to be completed around August, the ministry will study whether medical institutions such as hospitals and clinics would either have to file a report to police, consult with police or do nothing about suspected malpractice incidents, the sources said Monday.

In implementing the proposed plan, the sources said, the ministry would take into account whether there was a causal relationship between doctors’ treatment of a patient and the unexpected death or injury in each case.

A recent spate of malpractice incidents that resulted in patients dying has led many in Japan to conclude 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 introduction of the proposed measures would force medical institutions to report to police cases in which hospitals fail to determine the causal relationship between treatments and patients who have unexpectedly died or been injured, according to the sources.

It would be the first time for the government to draw up such a plan.

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

Under the plan, hospitals would also have to report to police an unexpected death or injury 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 an unexpected death or injury.

Hospitals would not have to report to or consult with police if they could prove that there is no causal relationship, according to the plan.

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