What Ethical Dilemmas Are Japanese Physicians Faced With?

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (6):162-165 (1997)
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Each country may face some distinctive ethical problems. Little is known about what kind of ethical problems exist and how often physicians are faced with them in clinical settings in Japan. The authors conducted both retrospective and prospective studies to identify ethical dilemmas at a general medical ward of a university hospital in Japan. In the first phase of the study, retrospective chart reviews were conducted for 61 patients who had been admitted to our general medical ward. It revealed that ethical dilemmas were recorded in 17 cases. In the subsequent period, as the second phase of the study, 6-month prospective case findings were conducted, showing that 22 of 47 patients had ethical dilemmas that attending physicians were concerned about. Ethical dilemmas frequently identified included refusal of or unnecessary requests for diagnostic procedures or treatment by patients, issues concerning truth-telling to patients with a serious illness, and disagreement regarding plans for patient care between patients' family and physicians in charge. The prospective case findings identified a significantly higher frequency of ethical dilemmas than did retrospective chart reviews . Demographics were not significantly different for the two patient groups. The data suggests that ethical dilemmas are not uncommon in general medical wards in Japan. The patients' family played a significant role in clinical decision making, leading on some occasions to complicated ethical dilemmas



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