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J.Jpn. Surg. Soc.. 114(2): 101-104, 2013

Feature topic


Division of Forensic Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan

Masato Funayama

Autopsies are required to determine the cause of deaths due to medical practice. In Japan, some deaths resulting from medical practice are treated as criminal cases. In such instances, medicolegal autopsies ordered by the police or public prosecutors are performed. One problem with a medicolegal autopsy, however, is that judicial institutes often refuse to disclose coroners' reports. As a result, parties with an interest in the findings (the bereaved or medical institutions) are unable to receive detailed autopsy information for a long period of time. When an autopsy is performed by a medical examiner who is a government official, the rules governing the disclosure of the coroner's report may not be as strict, at least for the bereaved, although such a system is in place in only four regions of Japan. In April 2013, a new law pertaining to the cause of death will come into effect. However, it does not include new articles relating to deaths caused by medical practice, meaning that such deaths will continue to be investigated under existing regulations in the present law, which includes the Medical Practitioners' Act. The government plans to draft another law covering deaths related to medical practice, and it is hoped that clinical medical societies, including the Japan Surgical Society, will appeal to the government to solve problems related to the determination of the cause of deaths related to medical practice.

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