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Foreign substance found in drip given to Yokohama hospital patient who died

A notice saying that the hospital has suspended its examination of outpatients is posted at the front door to Oguchi Hospital in Kanagawa Ward, Yokohama, on Sept. 24, 2016. (Mainichi)

YOKOHAMA -- Traces of a surface-activating agent used in soap and detergents have been found in a bag containing a medical drip believed to have been administered to a patient who died at a hospital earlier this month, as well as in his body, investigative sources said.

Noting that a bag that contained the intravenous fluids was not broken, the sources said investigators suspect that someone may have mixed the agent with the fluids in a way that did not draw attention from medical staff, such as by using a syringe.

According to the sources, the victim, 88-year-old Nobuo Yamaki, was transferred to Oguchi Hospital in Kanagawa Ward, Yokohama, on Sept. 14 from another hospital in the city to receive end-of-life care after his condition worsened.

Yamaki was administered a nutritional supplement through an intravenous drip in a fourth-floor room. At around 4 a.m. on Sept. 20, an alarm was activated to warn that his heart rate declined. In response, a nurse in her 30s rushed to his room but he died shortly before 5 a.m.

Kanagawa Prefectural Police conducted an autopsy on Yamaki's body because there were some suspicious points, and detected a foreign substance in his body. The force analyzed the substance and confirmed that it was traces of a surface-activating agent. Traces of a surface-activating agent were also found in the drip bag.

A surface-activating agent is used to help mix oil and water and is widely used in soap, detergents, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics. If people consume a large amount of the agent, it causes vomiting, diarrhea and hemolysis and could cause them to die.

Six patients including Yamaki shared the same room on the fourth floor at the hospital There were a total of 18 inpatients on the fourth floor. At the time of his death, two nurses in their 30s were on duty on that floor.

Since Sept. 18, two men in their 80s and a woman in her 90s who were hospitalized on the fourth floor at the institution have died. The two men died on Sept. 18 and medical staff have concluded that they died of illnesses. The woman died only two hours before Yamaki passed away.

Prefectural police have conducted autopsies on the three patients' bodies and are trying to determine the causes of their deaths.

Oguchi Hospital posts security guards at the front door from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Its back door is locked at 5 p.m. and the front door is locked at 9 p.m. after which outsiders cannot get into or out of the hospital.

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