Another pregnant woman died needlessly in Tokyo last week, said the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun. Desperately ill and nine months pregnant, she was rejected by no fewer than seven hospitals as the ambulance carrying her drove from one end of the city to the other. Although she finally gained admittance after doubling back to the first hospital, she died three days later. The case mirrors the scandal that happened in Nara prefecture in 2006, when 19 hospitals refused to treat a pregnant woman and she, too, died. Underlying both cases is Japan’s shocking shortage of obstetricians, which is a result both of our low birth rate and our high malpractice insurance. Yet the lack of specialists does not excuse neglect of patients. Any doctor is better than no doctor. Japanese hospitals will have to “strengthen cooperation between obstetrics and general medical emergency systems,” which are currently run separately. If no obstetrician is available, a general surgeon should take the case. “Flexible thinking is needed.” Women should not die in childbirth in 2008.
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