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More than 85 percent of public hospitals think legislation or guidelines are needed for the treatment of terminal patients, according to a recent Kyodo News survey.

The survey was conducted earlier this month after an investigation was opened into the deaths of several terminal patients who had their life support removed at Imizu City Hospital in Toyama Prefecture. The survey drew 94 respondents.

Overall, 85.1 percent of the institutions wanted legislation or guidelines for their staff.

Only 12.8 percent of the 94 hospitals said they had their own guidelines for treating the dying, meaning most doctors must deal with terminal patients and their families on a case-by-case basis.

Among the hospitals with their own guidelines, only one — Niigata Prefectural Hospital — clearly states it will not remove the respirators of terminal patients unless specific conditions are met, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, 55.3 percent of the respondents have set up ethics committees to discuss terminal care, and of those 73.1 percent have outside members on the committee, including lawyers and members of the public.

In late March, the hospital in Izumi revealed that the head of its surgery department had removed the respirators of six elderly patients who died between 2000 and 2005. The surgeon claimed he received verbal agreement to do so from the patients’ families.