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Hi Blog. Submitted for your approval (cue Twilight Zone theme):
Date: September 3, 2015
Hi Dr Debito, I thought you might be interested in my experience of trying to get an appointment at the top hospital for neurology in Japan. Basically they refuse to see me unless I pay for a specialist medical interpreter – they won’t even see me with a third party volunteer hospital interpreter.
I have a problem with a nerve at the base of my spine. It may or may not be caused by an accident I had early last year in which a taxi hit me when I was riding my bicycle.
I got a referral to the 国立精神・神経センター from my clinic because my research said they were the best in Japan for neurology.
I called them up to organize an appointment. My Japanese isn’t great so they told me in Japanese that I need a Japanese speaker to call on my behalf to make an appointment. I guess this is because they couldn’t get all the info needed to set up the appointment.
I had my Japanese teacher call during a lesson of mine and set up the appointment for me. They told her that I couldn’t come alone because of my language level. If I did come without a Japanese speaker they would cancel my appointment on the spot and not see me. I was surprised at this and as I was put on the spot, I said that’s ok, I’ll get a friend to come with me.
I thought about it and as the appointment time is this Monday at 9:45 am none of my friends could come with me. I searched out a group that organizes a free medical interpretation service telephone line staffed by trained professionals. They were a great help. They have to be engaged from the hospital side so I called the hospital and said in Japanese that I couldn’t get a friend to come so I will need to use this volunteer service.
The lady from the hospital called the volunteer service. The lady from the volunteer service called me back and said that the hospital refused to allow telephone based interpretation during my appointment. I must have a person come with me. I said ok. The lady from the volunteer service organized a volunteer to go with me and then called the hospital to confirm.
The hospital said they would not accept a layperson as a volunteer to accompany me. The hospital said that I must engage a professional medical interpreter. I thought this strange – they initially said that I need to come with a friend. A friend would undoubtedly be a layperson as well, so their refusal of a lay volunteer seems contradictory and petulant.
At this point it is too much hassle and will become prohibitively expensive to go to this hospital.
Is it legal to treat me like this?
Kind regards, TH
COMMENT: It is NOT illegal in Japan, and that is the problem. We have discussed numerous times on Debito.org about awful NJ hospital treatment (such as saying aloud that your NJ client should die; see here too) and outright NJ refusals (see here, here, and here, for example). They call into question how well-regarded (or even enforced) the Hippocratic Oath is in Japan.
Moreover, claiming a language barrier as grounds of refusal is a common tactic amongst discriminators in Japan (it adds more plausible deniability than an overt “Japanese Only” sign), and it looks like that is happening in this event too. But in the case of medical treatment, it is a much more serious issue, as it can be a matter of life and death.
Comments and assistance from Debito.org Readers is welcome below, and TH can respond with more details there as he sees best. Dr. ARUDOU Debito