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A national association of medical and dental practitioners has begun questioning its members about defects in endoscopes and manufacturers’ responses to complaints, according to a group bulletin made available Wednesday.

A questionnaire by the 94,000-member association — the Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for the Improvement of Medical Care — comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by a doctor seeking damages from Toshiba Corp. over claims the company ignored complaints regarding its endoscope.

Endoscopes are used to visually examine the insides of hollow organs.

The doctor, Koya Honda, who runs a clinic in Nagasaki, is seeking 84.5 million yen in damages, saying Toshiba has not responded properly to his claim that the endoscope he purchased from Toshiba had a frosted lens, which impaired diagnosis.

The electronics maker filed a countersuit saying the frosting is not a defect but was caused because the product was not cleaned according to the instructions in the manual.

The issue became widely known after Honda publicized his complaint on the Internet.

In the latest edition of its bulletin, the association of medical and dental practitioners said that Toshiba’s stance is unacceptable as a medical equipment manufacturer.

The questionnaire asks association members if they have experienced similar problems with Toshiba or other endoscope manufacturers.

Doctors’ earnings rise

The average monthly income of a practicing doctor surveyed last June was 2.37 million yen, up 370,000 yen, or 18.7 percent, from the previous survey in September 1997, a Health and Welfare Ministry council survey showed Wednesday.

The survey by the Central Social Insurance Medical Council, an advisory panel to the health minister, said the average difference between income and expenditure every month at a general hospital was a surplus of 5.32 million yen, up from a deficit of some 1 million yen in the previous survey.

The previous survey reflected a reluctance among patients to visit doctors, stemming from a requirement as of September 1997 that salaried national health insurance policyholders pay 20 percent of their medical bills, up from 10 percent previously.

The survey is designed to collect data on the incomes of hospitals and private medical practitioners every two years and use the information as a source of material for revising medical fees.