MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. – Gunma University Hospital on Tuesday admitted negligence in the deaths of eight patients following laparoscopic liver surgery, faulting its staff for failing to look into early deaths and a surgeon for falsifying a record.
Between 2010 and 2014, eight people died within four months of undergoing surgery conducted by laparoscope by one surgeon at the national institution.
Hospital officials told a news conference that in the case of one of the patients who died following surgery to remove what was believed to be a cancerous growth, the tumor turned out to be nonmalignant.
The surgeon falsely reported on a diagnostic report for insurance claims that the patient did indeed have cancer.
The surgeon also failed to inform the patient’s relatives immediately that the patient did not have cancer, which would have been tantamount to admitting the operation was conducted on an erroneous assumption.
The officials said that when questioned for the inquiry, the surgeon replied, “I can’t recall clearly.”
In its final report on the matter, released Tuesday, the hospital noted that four patients died within a year of the procedure being introduced in 2010.
The department “should have been aware of the problem and able to check and implement countermeasures at this early stage following the series of deaths,” the report says.
The department paid too little attention to safety when introducing the new technique, the report says. The departmental head was responsible for overseeing the procedure’s implementation.
Laparoscopy involves running a thin, lighted tube into an incision to perform operations.
Over the past five years, 10 other patients have died following open abdominal surgery, the report found.
The hospital issued an interim report in December finding that the department failed to carry out necessary checks prior to the operations, and that it continued conducting them without looking into why patients died.
After issuing the interim report, the hospital looked into the circumstances of each case and found common errors across all cases mentioned in the final report.
The hospital has announced improvements in the wake of the deaths, including reorganizing its external medicine departments into units that specialize in the treatment of each organ.