MAEBASHI, Japan - Gunma University Hospital on Tuesday made public a final report on its investigation into the death of eight patients after laparoscopic liver surgeries, and concluded that "there were errors in all cases."
The report also said that the second surgical department at the hospital, which conducted the operations, failed to give enough consideration to surgical safety and concluded that the responsibility of both the operating surgeon and a professor in charge of the department was "grave," but it did not explicitly refer to why such difficult operations had been conducted repeatedly under such unsatisfactory conditions.
The hospital held a press conference on Tuesday and also announced a surgeon who performed the operations created a false death certificate for one patient who had died three days after abdominal surgery.
The patient was posthumously confirmed not to have developed the cancer for which he was being treated, but the surgeon did not tell the patient's family this fact.
The Maebashi-based hospital is investigating the incident in detail, saying, "This is an extremely significant matter."
Yoshihisa Nojima, director of the hospital, apologised at the press conference, saying: "We pray for the souls of the departed and apologise to their bereaved families. We will deal with the issue of compensation sincerely."
It was found that at the hospital, patients who underwent laparoscopic liver surgeries died one after another following the operations during the period between January 2011 and May 2014.
The final report cited seven questionable points commonly found in the eight patients. Among the seven points, the report concluded that an ethical review required before a new operative method is adopted was not conducted, presurgury examinations were inadequate and explanations provided to the patients were insufficient.
The report cited such details as excessive incisions in a liver causing liver failure; a bile duct and an intestine not being reconnected properly, probably due to poor surgical procedure; and a failure to consider resorting to open-abdomen surgery to control bleeding during a laparoscopic operation.
The report said that if proper postoperative procedures had been implemented, the postoperative results could have been different.
At the No. 2 surgical department, in addition to the eight patients who died after the department performed complicated liver operations using a laparoscope, 10 patients were confirmed to have died after undergoing abdominal operations since fiscal 2009.
A male doctor in his 40s performed the operations on all of these patients.
According to the hospital's announcement, the patient in question - who was diagnosed as suffering from cholangioma, a cancer of the bile duct, in September 2010 - underwent the operation to remove the liver and bile duct, and died three days later after a sudden change in his condition.
When part of the removed liver was inspected at the hospital, it turned out that the patient had not suffered from cancer but from a benign tumour.
However, the surgeon who performed the operation failed to report the test result to the deceased patient's family.
Furthermore, he put the initial diagnosis, or cholangioma, on the medical certificate that he prepared in November 2010.
The hospital on Monday suspended the surgeon from all clinical practice, saying that his qualification as a doctor is questionable.