A health ministry panel recommended Wednesday that two surgeons involved in a fatally botched prostate cancer operation in November 2002 be suspended from practicing medicine for two years.

The 60-year-old patient died as a result of a lack of oxygen after a vein was damaged during surgery, which was performed at the Jikei University School of Medicine’s Aoto Hospital.

The two doctors are on trial at the Tokyo District Court on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. They have pleaded guilty.

The panel also said that a third doctor, who was supervising the operation, should be suspended for three months. The doctors used an abdominoscope for the surgery — a device that prosecutors allege the surgeons did not have sufficient experience to handle.

The recommendation Wednesday by a subcommittee of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Medical Ethics Council was rare, coming before the court had ruled on the case. Faced with a growing number of cases of medical malpractice, the ministry has said it will crack down on medical practitioners involved in serious wrongdoing.

The final decision on the form of punishment for the three doctors rests with health minister Chikara Sakaguchi.

The Medical Ethics Council has traditionally advised the ministry on reprimands for doctors and dentists who have been convicted of criminal offenses or found to have falsified requests for health insurance payouts.

But in October, the advisory body agreed that punishment should be handed out swiftly in serious cases.

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