Five Japanese doctors found liable for toddler’s death from drug overdose


The Tokyo District Court on Thursday found five doctors negligent and liable over the 2014 death of a 2-year-old boy due to an overdose with a sedative.

The court also said the five doctors from the Tokyo Women’s Medical University Hospital should be liable for ¥60 million in damages, but because the parents of the victim already received ¥100 million in compensation from the hospital in 2015, they will not have to pay. The parents of the boy had been seeking damages totaling ¥180 million from the five doctors as well as two others.

The doctors administered the sedative, propofol, to the boy, Kosuke, after he underwent neck surgery in February 2014, even though its use for children who require artificial ventilation is banned in principle.

Among the seven, two anesthesiologists were indicted without arrest in January this year on a charge of negligence resulting in the boy’s death.

Kosuke underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor in his neck on Feb. 18. 2014. The operation was completed in around seven minutes but he died three days later after being administered high amounts of propofol while in the intensive care unit, according to the ruling.

Presiding Judge Satoko Otokozawa said the five doctors found negligent, the two indicted and another anesthesiologist “violated” their duty of care by prescribing high amounts of the sedative for a long time without careful consideration.

The other two doctors also failed to fulfill their duties to sufficiently explain the risk of the sedative use to the parents, Otokozawa said, concluding that their negligence and the boy’s death had a causal relationship.

The long fight for justice was worth it, Kosuke’s father said after the ruling. “If the doctors took care of my son as if he was a member of their family, this would not have occurred. This is what I regret.”

A report by a third-party investigation panel set up by the hospital said in February 2015 that the boy died due to side effects from the administration of the sedative.

The report said even if the administration was reasonable, the amount given largely exceeded the standard level and doctors “lacked discretion.”

The boy’s family name is being withheld for privacy reasons.

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