Human Exceptionalism

Universal Health Care Meltdown in Japan?

Japan’s system of health care boasts of universal coverage and free screenings. But there seems to be trouble brewing in the Land of the Rising Sun exemplified by the tragedy of a patient with serious head injuries dying after he was refused care by 14 hospitals because there was no room for him at the inn. From the story:

After getting struck by a motorcycle, an elderly Japanese man with head injuries waited in an ambulance as paramedics phoned 14 hospitals, each refusing to treat him. He died 90 minutes later at the facility that finally relented–one of thousands of victims repeatedly turned away in recent years by understaffed and overcrowded hospitals in Japan…The Jan. 20 incident was the latest in a string of recent cases in Japan in which patients were denied treatment, underscoring health care woes in a rapidly aging society that faces an acute shortage of doctors and a growing number of elderly patients.

Such problems in Japan have apparently been brewing for the last several years:

Similar problems have occurred frequently in recent years. More than 14,000 emergency patients were rejected at least three times by Japanese hospitals before getting treatment in 2007, the latest government survey showed. In the worst case, a woman in her 70s with a breathing problem was rejected 49 times in Tokyo. There was also the high-profile death of a pregnant woman in western Nara city in 2006 that prompted the government to establish a panel to look into the hospitals’ practice of refusing care.

As we move into the upcoming health care debate, I hope the MSM will look into stories such as these as well as the pluses of such socialized systems. But I am not holding my breath.


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