The Japanese government is creating new guidelines to handle growing public concern about hospital errors and how they are reported.
The proposed new measures will govern the circumstances under which doctors must notify police about accidents that lead to the death or injury of patients.
Under the plan, which is expected to be revealed by September, the responsibility will be on physicians to prove they were not at fault in the event of an unexpected fatality. If there is any doubt, they will be expected to seek the advice of plice about whether a report should be filed.
The decision to draw up new guidelines is a result of the changing physician-patient relationship in Japan. According to the Supreme Court, patients and their relatives filed a record number of lawsuits relating to medical malpractice last year. The figure has increased by 80% since 1990.
This increase is said to reflect a heightened awareness of patients' rights and a growing recognition that doctors are as fallible and prone to cover-up their errors as anyone else.