Avoiding medical surprises in Japan

Understanding how Japanese medical practice differs from that in your home country can be crucial to avoiding unwelcome surprises next time you or a loved one find yourselves in need of treatment at a local clinic or hospital.

Without pre-planning, for instance, an expectant mother could find herself giving birth in the delivery room at a big, busy university or city hospital in the middle of the night, without access to anesthetics and meeting the doctor who is to deliver her baby for the first time. Time and space constraints may mean that the husband, mother or another close family member is not allowed into the delivery room. In a worst-case scenario, giving birth in Japan can be a painful, solitary affair.

To better anticipate what a foreign resident or visitor might experience as a patient in a Japanese hospital, we spoke to two Tokyo-based doctors who have trained and practiced in Japan as well as overseas. Dr. Hideki Sakamoto, a certified obstetrician and gynecologist, obtained his medical training at Nihon University and Yale. He is licensed to practice medicine in Japan and the state of Massachusetts. Dr. Tom Lomax trained and qualified as a medical doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London before moving to Tokyo to practice as a general practitioner. Both doctors now work at the private Tokyo Medical & Surgical Clinic.

One difference between medicine here and in the U.S. and U.K. is that in Japan, a doctor will commonly work at one large hospital throughout his lifetime. The organizational structure of big hospitals is pyramidal, and a doctor may spend his entire career working his way up the ladder. The one that makes it to the top of the organization has …. continue reading at The Japan Times.


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