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Japan’s hospitals report more harassment by angry patients, reflecting similar incidents across society

Medical professionals say they are witnessing more patients showing belligerent behaviour, greater impatience and a lack of respect for the knowledge of doctors and nurses. Such incidents often arise from arguments started by patients over treatment.

A nationwide survey on “patient harassment” shows 190 of the 379 hospitals and medical centres have reported “troubling incidents.” The study by the Fukuoka municipal medical association released in September is the first of its kind and there are no other comparable statistics available.

But interviews with medical professionals conducted by This Week in Asia suggest many of them believe such incidents are becoming more frequent.

In the medical association study, more than half of institutions said staff had been the target of abusive language, including threats, from patients unhappy about their care or payments. Some 40 per cent also reported angry responses from patients or their family members as the result of a delay in treatment?

Other patients “complained endlessly about the type of treatment” they received or demanded certain medications, with 10 per cent of institutions reporting cases of violence and 30 per cent saying staff had been subject to sexual harassment.

“There have always been problems with some patients, but yes, I do think it has become more commonplace,” said Hiroyasu Iso, a professor at the graduate school of medicine at Osaka University.

“It is difficult to generalise but often incidents involve people from lower socio-economic groups and these people are more likely to become angry and make complaints,” he told This Week in Asia. “I would also say there have been more extreme cases.”

Iso pointed to two recent cases that had shocked the medical community.