On 11 March 2011, Japan experienced a major disaster brought about by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a massive tsunami that followed. This disaster caused extensive damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with the release of a large amount of radiation, leading to a crisis level 7 on the International Atomic Energy Agency scale. In this report, we discuss the obligations of physicians to provide care during the initial weeks after the disaster. We appeal to the obligation of general (...) beneficence and argue that physicians should go to disaster zones only if there is no significant risk, cost or burden associated with doing so. We conclude that physicians were not obligated to go to Fukushima given the high risk of radiation exposure and physical and psychological harm. However, we must acknowledge that there were serious epistemic difficulties in accurately assessing the risks or benefits of travelling to Fukushima at the time. The discussion that follows is highly pertinent to all countries that rely on nuclear energy. (shrink)
Background: Previous studies have found that the decision-making process for stored unused frozen embryos involves much emotional burden influenced by socio-cultural factors. This study aims to ascertain how Japanese patients make a decision on the fate of their frozen embryos: whether to continue storage discard or donate to research. Methods: Ten Japanese women who continued storage, 5 who discarded and 16 who donated to research were recruited from our infertility clinic. Tape-recorded interviews were transcribed and analyzed for emergent themes. Results: (...) A model of patients’ decision-making processes for the fate of frozen embryos was developed, with a common emergent theme, “coming to terms with infertility” resulting in either acceptance or postponing acceptance of their infertility. The model consisted of 5 steps: 1) the embryo-transfer moratorium was sustained, 2) the “Mottainai”- embryo and having another child were considered; 3) cost reasonability was taken into account; 4) partner’s opinion was confirmed to finally decide whether to continue or discontinue storage. Those discontinuing, then contemplated 5): the effect of donation. Great emotional conflict was expressed in the theme, steps 2, 4, and 5. Conclusions: Patients’ 5 step decision-making process for the fate of frozen embryos was profoundly affected by various Japanese cultural values and moral standards. At the end of their decision, patients used culturally inherent values and standards to come to terms with their infertility. While there is much philosophical discussion on the moral status of the embryo worldwide, this study, with actual views of patients who own them, will make a significant contribution to empirical ethics from the practical viewpoint. (shrink)
Today Asia is attracting attention in the area of bioethics. In fact, the potential of bioethics is beginning to be discussed seriously at academic centers across Asia. In Japan, this discussion began a decade ago with the publication The book is one of the principal explorations of biomedical ethics involving Japan to date. Tom Beauchamp, an author of one of the book's chapters, compares Japanese and American standards of informed consent and refutes relativistic positions, concluding that.
Compared to institutional and area-based ethics committees, little is known about the structure and activities performed by ethics committees at national medical organizations and societies. This five year follow-up study aimed to determine (1) the creation and function of ethics committees at medical organizations in Japan, and (2) their general strategies to deal with ethical problems. The study sample included the member societies of the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences (n=92 in 1998, n=96 in 2003). Instruments consisted of two sections: (...) (1) the structure, function and activities of ethics committees, and (2) the strategies for dealing with ethical problems. Response rates were 84.4% in 1998 and 64.4% in 2003. Findings showed a significant increase of ethics committees at medical organizations between 1998 (25.6%) and 2003 (50.0%). Members were mostly male, medical doctors in clinical or basic medicine, and members of the organization. The major functions of ethics committees were ethical reviews of research protocols, policy making and ethical reviews of manuscripts submitted for journal publication. Among organizations that did not have an ethics committee, a significant decrease was found in organizations that replied that they had never experienced an ethical problem which needed further investigation (p<0.01). Findings suggested an overall rise in awareness of the importance of ethical issues and also highlighted an increase in recognition of responsibility regarding ethical problems. (shrink)
BackgroundFew comparative studies of clinical ethics consultation practices have been reported. The objective of this study was to explore how American and Japanese experts analyze an Alzheimer's case regarding ethics consultation.MethodsWe presented the case to physicians and ethicists from the US and Japan (one expert from each field from both countries; total = 4) and obtained their responses through a questionnaire and in-depth interviews.ResultsEstablishing a consensus was a common goal among American and Japanese participants. In attempting to achieve consensus, the (...) most significant similarity between Japanese and American ethics consultants was that they both appeared to adopt an "ethics facilitation" approach. Differences were found in recommendation and assessment between the American and Japanese participants. In selecting a surrogate, the American participants chose to contact the grandson before designating the daughter-in-law as the surrogate decision-maker. Conversely the Japanese experts assumed that the daughter-in-law was the surrogate.ConclusionOur findings suggest that consensus building through an "ethics facilitation" approach may be a commonality to the practice of ethics consultation in the US and Japan, while differences emerged in terms of recommendations, surrogate assessment, and assessing treatments. Further research is needed to appreciate differences not only among different nations including, but not limited to, countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but also within each country. (shrink)
Background Ethics committees and their system of research protocol peer-review are currently used worldwide. To ensure an international standard for research ethics and safety, however, data is needed on the quality and function of each nation's ethics committees. The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics and developments of ethics committees established at medical schools and general hospitals in Japan. Methods This study consisted of four national surveys sent twice over a period of eight years to two separate (...) samples. The first target was the ethics committees of all 80 medical schools and the second target was all general hospitals with over 300 beds in Japan (n = 1457 in 1996 and n = 1491 in 2002). Instruments contained four sections: (1) committee structure, (2) frequency of annual meetings, (3) committee function, and (4) existence of a set of guidelines for the refusal of blood transfusion by Jehovah's Witnesses. Results Committee structure was overall interdisciplinary. Frequency of annual meetings increased significantly for both medical school and hospital ethics committees over the eight years. The primary activities for medical school and hospital ethics committees were research protocol reviews and policy making. Results also showed a significant increase in the use of ethical guidelines, particularly those related to the refusal of blood transfusion by Jehovah's Witnesses, among both medical school and hospital ethics committees. Conclusion Overall findings indicated a greater recognized degree of responsibilities and an increase in workload for Japanese ethics committees. (shrink)
Informed consent, decision-making styles and the role of patient-physician relationships are imperative aspects of clinical medicine worldwide. We present the case of a 74-year-old woman afflicted with advanced liver cancer whose attending physician, per request of the family, did not inform her of her true diagnosis. In our analysis, we explore the differences in informed-consent styles between patients who hold an "independent" and "interdependent" construal of the self and then highlight the possible implications maintained by this position in the context (...) of international clinical ethics. Finally, we discuss the need to reassess informed-consent styles suitable to the needs of each patient regardless of whether he or she resides in the United States or in Japan. (shrink)
In 1997, after long social debates, the Japanese government enacted a law on organ transplantation from brain-dead bodies. Since 1993, on gene therapy, administrative agencies have issued a series of guidelines. This study seeks to elucidate when people became aware of the issues and when they formed their opinions on organ transplant and gene therapy. At the same time, it aims to examine at which point in time experts, those in university ethical committees and in academic societies, consider these technologies (...) became accepted among the public. A self-administered questionnaire was sent by mail to a stratified random sampling of 3000 people nationwide in Japan. Another questionnaire was sent both to the member societies of the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences and to the ethical committees of all the medical schools in Japan. Results of the surveys indicated that many of the public remained undecided on the desirability of organ transplant or gene therapy at the time of enactment of official guidelines. A substantial part of them formed their opinions in subsequent periods, especially around the time of first implementation and thereafter. Experts of the academic societies and of the university ethical committees regarded the time of implementation as an important factor in the acceptance of the technologies in society. Since many people formed their opinion during the period of technological implementation, communications efforts to facilitate public understanding of science and technology, as well as to advance practical discussion on policy alternatives in this period can play a key role in determining the fate of technological innovation and ethical debates in medicine. (shrink)
Public satisfaction with policy process influences the legitimacy and acceptance of policies, and conditions the future political process, especially when contending ethical value judgments are involved. On the other hand, public involvement is required if effective policy is to be developed and accepted.
BackgroundMost medical schools in Japan have incorporated mandatory courses on medical ethics. To this date, however, there is no established means of evaluating medical ethics education in Japan. This study looks 1) To develop a brief, objective method of evaluation for moral sensitivity and reasoning; 2) To conduct a test battery for the PIT and the DIT on medical students who are either currently in school or who have recently graduated (residents); 3) To investigate changes in moral sensitivity and reasoning (...) between school years among medical students and residents.MethodsQuestionnaire survey: Two questionnaires were employed, the Problem Identification Test (PIT) for evaluation of moral sensitivity and a portion of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) for moral reasoning. Subjects consisted of 559 medical school students and 272 residents who recently graduated from the same medical school located in an urban area of Japan.ResultsPIT results showed an increase in moral sensitivity in 4th and 5th year students followed by a decrease in 6th year students and in residents. No change in moral development stage was observed. However, DIT results described a gradual rising shift in moral decision-making concerning euthanasia between school years. No valid correlation was observed between PIT and DIT questionnaires.ConclusionThis study's questionnaire survey, which incorporates both PIT and DIT, could be used as a brief and objective means of evaluating medical students' moral sensitivity and reasoning in Japan. (shrink)
Background In Japan, discussion concerning advance directives (ADs) has been on the rise during the past decade. ADs are one method proposed to facilitate the process of communication among patients, families and health care providers regarding the plan of care of a patient who is no longer capable of communicating. In this paper, we report the results of the first in-depth survey on the general population concerning the preferences and use of ADs in Japan. Method A self-administered questionnaire was sent (...) via mail to a stratified random sampling of 560 residents listed in the residential registry of one district of Tokyo, Japan (n = 165,567). Association between correlating factors and specific preferences toward ADs was assessed using contingency table bivariate analysis and multivariate regression model to estimate independent contribution. Results Of the 560 questionnaires sent out, a total of 425 participants took part in the survey yielding a response rate of 75.9 %. The results of the present study indicate that: 1) the most important components to be addressed are the specifics of medical treatment at the end of life stage and disclosure of diagnosis and prognosis; 2) the majority of participants found it suitable to express their directives by word to family and/or physician and not by written documentation; 3) there is no strong need for legal measures in setting up an AD; 4) it is permissible for family and physician to loosely interpret one's directives; 5) the most suitable proxy is considered to be a family member, relative, or spouse. Multivariate analysis found the following five factors as significantly associated with preferences: 1) awareness regarding living wills, 2) experience with the use of ADs, 3) preferences for end-of-life treatment, 4) preferences for information disclosure, and 5) intentions of creating a will. Conclusions Written ADs might be useful in the Japanese setting when the individual either wishes: 1) to not provide a lot of leeway to surrogates and/or caregivers, and/or 2) to ensure his or her directives in the cases of terminal illness, brain death, and pain treatment, as well as regarding information disclosure. (shrink)
I am an M.D/Ph.D. student and work as a research assistant for the director of a division of the school of medicine who is an M.D. He assigned me to research a certain topic and gave me no guidelines or guidance as to how to do it. Nevertheless, I did the research and wrote it up. My supervisor liked the report and said that he thought it was so good that “I would like to offer you the opportunity to publish (...) it and list you as the primary author.” Some bells went off when he so grandly offered to let me author the report for which I had done 100% of research and writing. I consulted some other people in the field and they said that, as long as I was the primary author, it was legitimate for him to list himself as secondary author if he did some editing later. After editing the abstract only, he e-mailed his revisions to me and in a note at the bottom he asked me what I thought of his revised author order. His name was first, mine second, and the name of his girlfriend (who had no part in this research or its revision) was third. I was shocked by what seemed to be a case of unethical author attribution and confronted him asking why he changed the order when we had agreed that I was primary author. He said that he had put in several hours of work. (shrink)
The dilemma of whether and how to disclose a diagnosis of cancer or of any other terminal illness continues to be a subject of worldwide interest. We present the case of a 62-year-old Japanese woman afflicted with advanced gall bladder cancer who had previously expressed a preference not to be told a diagnosis of cancer. The treating physician revealed the diagnosis to the family first, and then told the patient: "You don't have any cancer yet, but if we don't treat (...) you, it will progress to a cancer". In our analysis, we examine the role of family consent, communication patterns (including ambiguous disclosure), and advance directives for cancer disclosure in Japan. Finally, we explore the implications for Edmund Pellegrino's proposal of "something close to autonomy" as a universal good. (shrink)
SETTING: Medical ethics education has become common, and the integrated ethics curriculum has been recommended in Western countries. It should be questioned whether there is one, universal method of teaching ethics applicable worldwide to medical schools, especially those in non-Western developing countries. OBJECTIVE: To characterise the medical ethics curricula at Asian medical schools. DESIGN: Mailed survey of 206 medical schools in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. PARTICIPANTS: A total (...) of 100 medical schools responded, a response rate of 49%, ranging from 23%-100% by country. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The degree of integration of the ethics programme into the formal medical curriculum was measured by lecture time; whether compulsory or elective; whether separate courses or unit of other courses; number of courses; schedule; total length, and diversity of teachers' specialties. RESULTS: A total of 89 medical schools (89%) reported offering some courses in which ethical topics were taught. Separate medical ethics courses were mostly offered in all countries, and the structure of vertical integration was divided into four patterns. Most deans reported that physicians' obligations and patients' rights were the most important topics for their students. However, the evaluation was diverse for more concrete topics. CONCLUSION: Offering formal medical ethics education is a widespread feature of medical curricula throughout the study area. However, the kinds of programmes, especially with regard to integration into clinical teaching, were greatly diverse. (shrink)
Japan is one of several East Asian countries that share an ethical system of mutual support. A review of Japan’s health care system reveals a strong egalitarian ethos often considered unique by outside observers.