A bereaved family in Japan is considering suing the operator of a hospital that allegedly worked their son to death.
What happened: Takashima Shingo, 26, a resident physician at Konan Medical Center in Kobe City, took his own life in May 2022. According to his family’s lawyers, he worked more than 207 hours in the month before his death and had not taken a day off in three months, NHK reported.
What he said: Takashima left a final note for his parents. In it, he thanked them for reaching him one last time and explained that he “tried not to do this, but it’s the limit.”
In a press conference last Friday, his mother said he repeatedly told her that “no one is looking out for me.” She believes the work environment “put him over the edge,” CNN reported.
What the government is saying: In June, the Nishinomiya Labor Standards Inspection Office ruled Takashima’s death a work-related incident caused by extremely long hours. However, it is unclear if this determination holds the hospital accountable in some capacity.
What the hospital is saying: In a separate press conference last week, Konan Medical Center denied any knowledge of the young doctor being overworked. Its records — reportedly reviewed by a dedicated committee of outside doctors and lawyers — show that Takashima had worked 197 hours and 36 minutes of overtime in April 2022, followed by 133 hours and 15 minutes in May.
“There are many times when (doctors) spend time studying on their own and sleeping according to their physiological needs,” a spokesperson added, as per CNN. “Due to the very high degree of freedom, it is not possible to accurately determine working hours.”
The big picture: Japan has an alarming record of deaths linked to overwork, a social phenomenon known as “karoshi.” The government reportedly accepts around 200 karoshi claims per year, but activists estimate the actual numbers are as high as 10,000.