Police on Thursday arrested three urologists at a Tokyo hospital whose inexperience in a surgical procedure allegedly caused the death last year of a patient with prostate cancer.
Arrested on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death were urologists Jun Madarame, 38, Taro Hasegawa, 34, and Shigetake Maeda, 32, of Aoto Hospital of the Jikei University School of Medicine in Katsushika Ward.
Police plan to turn over to prosecutors Friday their case against three other doctors involved in the incident: a 52-year-old head of the hospital’s medical examination department and two anesthesiologists.
Kazuhiko Ochiai, head of Aoto Hospital, admitted in a news conference Thursday that the urologists had erred during the operation. “I would like to extend our apologies to the patient and his family,” he said.
On Nov. 8, according to investigations, a 60-year-old man from Chiba Prefecture underwent an operation at the hospital to remove the cancerous cells. During the operation, however, the man suffered excessive bleeding and required a blood transfusion. But under low-oxygen conditions, the man suffered massive brain damage. He died a month later.
Police suspect that the doctors had insufficient experience using an abdominoscope, a type of endoscope, during the operation, and performed the procedure in an unprofessional manner.
While performing surgery, according to police, the doctors were taking instructions from the supplier of the abdominoscope. The urologists went ahead with the operation while simultaneously reading from the equipment manual, they said.
Police also suspect that the doctors failed to obtain consent from the deceased’s family before going ahead with the surgical procedure.
Surgery using an abdominoscope has become common because it allows for smaller surgical cuts compared with opening up the stomach, and requires a shorter hospital stay.
But because the stomach is not opened, the surgeon needs to watch a television monitor and have sufficient experience.
The police believe the urologists’ inexperience caused the complications that led to the man’s death. Two of the three arrested urologists had only trained at using an abdominoscope on animals. The other urologist had meanwhile participated in several such operations only as an assistant, according to investigators.
The urologists had also failed to prepare enough blood for transfusion as a precaution against excessive blood loss.
Police said the urologists should have given up on the procedure and switched to the safer option of cutting open the abdomen at a much earlier stage in the operation.
Aoto Hospital had not obtained permission from the university’s ethics committee to conduct the operation.
Although the three urologists had informed the head of the medical examination department that they were planning to perform the surgical procedure, Ochiai gave them the go-ahead without reporting it to the university’s ethics committee, according to police.
Ochiai told Thursday’s news conference that he “thought the doctors had applied” for approval from the university panel.
One of the urologists had said he “wanted to perform an operation using an abdominoscope,” according to investigators.
When asked if the surgery amounted to human experimentation by the urologists, Ochiai protested.
He also contradicted a police allegation that the urologists had failed to inform the patient’s family that they planned to use an abdominoscope. He said he had heard that the family agreed to this method of surgery.
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