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Editorial: Suspicions linger that univ. hospital helped gang leader cheat prison sentence

The fact that there are suspicions that a university hospital has given preferential treatment to a senior member of a crime syndicate is a grave state of affairs in itself.

Kyoto Prefectural Police raided Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine's University Hospital on Feb. 14 on suspicion that doctors there created a false certificate on the medical condition of the head of a gang affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate, which was then submitted to prosecutors. The yakuza leader's prison sentence for extortion had been confirmed in the courts, but the process of sending the gang leader to prison had been halted due to documents such as the medical certificate.

The certificate contains figures relating to the gang leader's blood work and expresses the hospital's view that the patient's condition would worsen unless he had access to cutting-edge medical equipment, which would not be available in prison.

During his 2014 trial for extortion, the gang leader's chronic health condition deteriorated, and he underwent a kidney transplant at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine hospital. Until then, he had been receiving treatment at a different hospital, and many pieces of the puzzle remain unclear, including why the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine hospital decided to accept him as a patient for the operation.

One such murky detail is the allegation that Toshikazu Yoshikawa, president of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, was acquainted with the gang leader. According to investigative sources, they were introduced through a former Kyoto Prefectural Police officer, and the two had dined together on multiple occasions.

At a press conference on Feb. 28, Yoshikawa denied that he had close ties to the yakuza leader. He said that he first met him when the gang leader and his family visited the president's office when they were at the hospital for a medical consult. Yoshikawa said that later, he ran into the gang leader about twice at a restaurant that he frequented, and gave advice to the gang leader on his health. Yoshikawa also denied involvement in the falsified medical certificate, including instructing doctors to create one.

Still, this explanation does not eliminate suspicions that a senior university official interfered in the case of a yakuza leader's kidney transplant.

Yoshikawa cannot avoid being criticized for being so imprudent as to chat with a gang leader at a restaurant. Doubts also remain about whether a patient who has come to the hospital for a medical consult can easily meet with the head of the university with which the hospital is affiliated.

The president of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine is at once the head of a public university and a physician. As both an educator and a medical doctor, he is required to have a strong sense of ethical boundaries. He must refrain from taking any action that could be seen as fraternization with anti-social forces, such as crime syndicates.

A Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine council that deliberates the school's personnel affairs advised Yoshikawa to resign. The president declined, saying that he had not been involved in illicit activity. He must, however, recognize the weight of the responsibility he bears in the fact that such an advisory was issued.

The council is set to demand that a screening panel with the authority to select the university president remove Yoshikawa from office. The panel must carry out its own investigation, and release any facts that emerge regarding the relationship between the hospital and the gang leader, and the hospital's involvement in the gang leader's case.

Both the Kyoto Prefectural Government and the Kyoto Prefectural Public University Corporation set up respective investigative panels to look into the case -- a natural step, considering the gravity of the case.

"If (the gang leader) were to be imprisoned, he would be at risk of contracting infections," Norio Yoshimura, chairman of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine's University Hospital, said, following the raid by Kyoto Prefectural Police. "The medical certificate was therefore not false."

It is understandable that much is left to the discretion of doctors, since they have high levels of expertise, but the validity of the medical certificate in the latest case must be subjected to careful scrutiny.

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