Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Some futures are not much fun to contemplate

This is an anecdote about the Japanese health care system. It is only an anecdote. It could never happen here.

You can read background here, here and here. In Japan about 10,000 citizens have contracted hepatitis C from blood plasma products containing fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is a blood coagulation agent produced by the liver. At one time, blood plasma products containing added fibrinogen were used by obstetricians, gynecologists and surgeons as a means to control hemorrhaging. The U.S. government canceled its approval for such blood products in 1977 because of concern for the risk that fibrinogen obtained from donated blood could be infected by hepatitis C. Japan banned use of fibrinogen for similar reasons in 1988.

OK, back to present day. Many Japanese are infected with Hepatitis C from blood plasma containing fibrinogen. It turns out the government, specifically the ministry of health, was aware of the problem but failed to take any steps to warn those most at risk for infection:

In October [2007], the government was embarrassed when Health Ministry officials admitted to having data that would have helped identify or warn hundreds of hepatitis patients before their illnesses worsened.

Even worse,

Many patients cannot fight in court because their medical records were destroyed by their doctors.

But - - please, not to worry. As I said, this is just an anecdote about another nation’s government-run health care system and an unfortunate lapse in the health ministry. This could never happen here.

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