Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Doctors are bad for you...

...and here's the proof:

OECD report indicates serious physician shortage in Japan

I've heard some horror stories about the Japanese healthcare system, but there are of course horror stories everywhere. The Japanese problems seem mostly to spring from authoritarian and old-fashioned attitudes among the medical profession, together with a large dose of cover-up and closing ranks after malpractice. In contrast, UK horror stories tend to be about people who cannot get treatment until it is too late.

My own limited experience is that the facilities are excellent and there does not appear to be any shortage of staff. When I had a slipped disk a few years ago and eventually went to see a doctor, he apologised for the wait for the MRI scan...because it was being used for hips that day, I would have to come back next week to get my back scanned. Seriously.

(Pause for UK residents to pick their jaws up off the floor).

Anyway, Japan has the highest life expectancy, and just about the fewest doctors and the lowest spend on health care. Obviously we can clearly see in these figures the malign influence of the medical profession on human health. OK, maybe I exaggerate - it is merely useless.

Oddly, Japan has the highest number of doctor consultations per capita, more than one per person per month! How on earth do people find the time? But obviously the doctors are too busy consulting to actually do any treatment, so that's ok. Anyway, I don't hear of people unable to get doctors' appointments.


John Fleck said...

Sorry for not getting the UK joke. Next week would be unusually fast in the UK?

James Annan said...

This randomly googled page gives an average wait of 14 weeks for a non-urgent MRI scan like mine - and trumpets that as an improvement on the previous 21 week wait!

Arjan said...


I came here searching for blogs from countries that weren't featured on

I'm not the writer of the blog above, but have a look! Japan is not featured yet (so take your chance).

I'll favorite this blog. Interesting to read about daily life in Japan :)
Greetings from the Netherlands,

Kooiti MASUDA said...

(The following is not my first-hand knowledge but just what I learned from Japanese mass media, so I am not so confident.)

Shortage of obstetricians and pediatricians is now a real problem in many parts of Japan. It is not visible around here (near the core of Tokyo megalopolis) where population density is highest. But it is reported not only in rural areas (low pop. density) but also in smaller cities (medium pop. density).

It seems that would-be doctors respond to demographic forecasts more strongly than the society demands. Then the working condition of doctors already in these fields of expertise has become busier and more stressful. Thus a positive feedback spiral toward zero is formed. (I think this is a kind of market failure, though the labor market of doctors is of course not an ideally free market.)

Another factor (according to critiques appearing in mass media) is that the doctors in these fields particularly fear of lawsuits by the patients' families on alleged mistreatments (which are just accidents from the point of view of the doctors).