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Gifu hospital does not mention heatstroke in death certificates of 5 patients

GIFU -- A hospital here did not mention the possibility that heatstroke caused five of its elderly patients to pass away in their death certificates, although all of the patients died inside rooms with broken air conditioners during a three-day period amid a hot spell, people involved in the investigation said on Aug. 30.

The Gifu Prefectural Police suspect that the patients died of heatstroke. The police department intends to determine the causes of their death by conducting a judicial autopsy, alleging that the case may constitute professional negligence resulting in death.

According to Gifu Naka Police Station, three men and two women aged 83 to 85 died at Y&M Fujikake Daiichi Hospital in the city of Gifu in central Japan from the night of Aug. 26 through the night of Aug. 28. The hospital stated in their death certificates that the patients died of causes such as multiple organ failure, heart failure and other illnesses, but didn't mention any relationship between their demise and heatstroke.

The Medical Practitioners' Act provides that a medical doctor must report to local police within 24 hours of a patient's death if there is anything unusual about their body. The hospital apparently didn't report the patients' deaths after determining that there was nothing suspicious about them.

According to the city and other sources, there are thermometers and hygrometers on every floor of the hospital and nurses recorded their readings regularly. During the night, a nurse and an assistant on night duty checked on patients every two to three hours, and recorded the pulse and temperature of patients in critical condition every one or two hours.

The prefectural police are investigating if a causal relationship exists between the patients' deaths and heatstroke by analyzing confiscated medical records including their body temperatures, their medical conditions and the environment inside their rooms.

(Japanese original by Ryo Numata, Gifu Bureau)

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