• Kyodo

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Police on Thursday searched one of Japan’s biggest maternity clinics, Yokohama’s Hori Maternity Hospital, where nurses were allegedly allowed to illegally conduct intrauterine examinations on a pregnant woman, who later died at another hospital after developing complications from giving birth.

Investigators questioned hospital owner Kenichi Hori and several employees, police sources said.

Hori was quoted as telling Kanagawa Prefectural Police that he instructed the nurses to perform the procedure.

Police also searched more than 20 locations linked with the hospital, which handles about 3,000 births a year. They included the homes of the hospital owner and employees. They seized medical records as evidence, the sources said.

Hori Maternity Hospital, based in Seya Ward, confirmed it was searched but declined comment. The 77-bed institution specializes in obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics, according to its Web site.

In November 2002, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry issued a notice in line with the nursing law clearly prohibiting nurses from performing such exams.

The law allows only physicians and midwives to conduct such internal exams.

An investigation determined that the hospital allowed nurses to perform an intrauterine exam on a 37-year-old pregnant woman on Dec. 29, 2003.

Nurses are suspected of performing several intrauterine exams on the woman between the day she was admitted to the hospital until she was taken to the delivery room, the sources said.

The woman developed excessive bleeding after giving birth to a girl. She was transferred to another hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture and had her womb removed, but subsequently died of multiple organ failure in February 2004, according to the sources.

The police sources said the hospital apparently continued to allow nurses to perform intrauterine examinations more than once year after the health ministry circulated the notice.

The nursing law carries a punishment of up to two years in prison or a fine of less than 500,000 yen, or both, if nurses conduct intrauterine examinations.

Debate over whether to allow nurses to conduct such examinations is continuing, with the Japan Medical Association leaning toward approval under certain conditions. But a health ministry official said the ministry has no intention of changing the regulation anytime soon.

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