National / Crime & Legal

Death of woman following abortion performed by unaccredited doctor sparks criminal probe

Kyodo

A luxurious obstetrics and gynecology clinic in western Tokyo may face illegal abortion charges after it was linked to the death of a 23-year-old woman who had an abortion procedure at the clinic in July.

An investigation was launched after the woman’s husband, 26, filed a claim against the Mizuguchi Hospital in the city of Musashino, the police said Tuesday. The claim says the abortion procedure was performed by an unqualified doctor, possibly contributing to the woman’s death. The couple’s names have not been released.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, surgical abortion procedures can only be performed by doctors accredited by prefectural medical associations under the Maternal Protection Law. The clinic has confirmed that the doctor who carried out the surgery had no such accreditation.

The hospital released a statement including an apology on Tuesday. It also admitted that hospital officials were aware of the doctor’s accreditation status.

“We admit and take into our hearts our lack of awareness,” the statement said. “We reflect on how our conduct has resulted in a fatal incident and we will do our utmost to prevent any reoccurrence of similar incidents.”

The hospital also revealed that the doctor, who quit the hospital in October, had conducted 12 abortion surgeries between May and September, including the one resulting in the woman’s death.

But they said that at this point they believe the procedure was not linked to her death.

According to the woman’s husband and his attorney, the couple got married on July 6 and the wife underwent the surgery two days later after the fetus was diagnosed as abortive. She died at home on July 14.

The woman’s death was attributed to heart failure in an administrative autopsy, a procedure performed in cases where police do not find evidence suggesting criminal involvement. But her husband and the attorney argue that the woman did not suffer from any disease that could lead to her death.

They also said the clinic initially hid the information that the doctor who performed the surgery was unqualified, but later told the husband that he replaced a doctor who was on a sick leave.

“There was no urgency in this abortion surgery so the clinic’s explanation shouldn’t be taken as circumstances to be taken into consideration,” said Motomitsu Nakagawa, the attorney in charge of the case. “It is clear they should be criminally charged.”

On Monday the woman’s husband urged the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has jurisdiction over the hospital, to look into the cause of his wife’s death and take severe disciplinary steps against the clinic.

“I have no words to express my anger. I hope they will be severely punished,” the man said. “We were supposed to live happily together and this happened in less than two weeks (after getting married).”