crime

High court acquits assistant nurse over fatal doughnut suit

19 Comments

A high court has scrapped a lower court ruling and acquitted an assistant nurse over a 2013 incident in which an 85-year-old woman at a care home in central Japan died after eating a doughnut she was given.

The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday found 60-year-old Kesae Yamaguchi not guilty of negligence, saying her provision of a doughnut as a snack did not violate a duty of care under the Penal Code.

In March last year, the Matsumoto chapter of the Nagano District Court found Yamaguchi guilty of negligence resulting in death after recognizing she was responsible for checking what food the woman was given, as her snack had been designated as jelly. The court fined her 200,000 yen ($1,894).

The case has attracted public attention as it is rare for individuals, rather than facility operators, to be criminally charged over faulty care.

The woman at the care home in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture, ate a doughnut provided as a snack on Dec 12, 2013, and died about a month later due to brain damage from lack of oxygen.

The district court said the woman choked on the doughnut and died, but Yamaguchi's defense team argued the cause of death was a stroke and she did not bear responsibility for checking what the woman ate.

The high court ruling said the woman had eaten doughnuts at the care home and the risk of her suffocating was low. It also said only caregivers at the facility shared information that jelly should be given as a snack and the assistant nurse did not know it.

The defense team praised what it called a "landmark" ruling, saying the court fully accepted its arguments and that it would help "quell the concerns of those working in nursing care."

Hideo Kijima, chief of the defense team, said nursing establishments had been shaken since Yamaguchi was found guilty in the first ruling last March, with some stopping providing snacks at care homes.

"Care workers' wish to offer a good service of care must win more respect," Kijima said in a meeting after Tuesday's ruling.

Speaking at the meeting, a tearful Yamaguchi expressed gratitude to her supporters, saying "Thank you for supporting me these six and a half long years."

Yoko Miyazawa, a 57-year-old employee of a medical-related organization who had supported Yamaguchi since the start of her trial, was also relieved.

"I've been saying all this time how ridiculous it is that something that could happen to anyone at any nursing home could become a criminal case," she said. "Our voices finally reached the judiciary."

© KYODO

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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A rare not guilty verdict, and some common sense.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

something that could happen to anyone at any nursing home could become a criminal case

Perhaps a fame-and-promotion hungry prosecutor?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

There are not enough details in the article, but the poor lady ate a doughnut and died one month later of stroke?? I am not a doctor, but there is something fishy about the initial guilty verdict.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

The prosecution's case had a hole in the middle.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

The woman ... ate a doughnut provided as a snack on Dec 12, 2013, and died about a month later due to brain damage from lack of oxygen. The district court said the woman choked on the doughnut and died... A month later? Why was the case ever taken to trial?

20 ( +20 / -0 )

 A month later?

She died a month later, but the article doesn't say when the stroke occurred. It could have been immediately after eating the doughnut.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The justice system is severely broken when the trials are forced guilty at all cost.

Almost no judge has ever dictated an innocent verdict in their whole career.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The woman ... ate a doughnut provided as a snack on Dec 12, 2013, and died about a month later due to brain damage from lack of oxygen. The district court said the woman choked on the doughnut and died... A month later? Why was the case ever taken to trial?

Yeah, I picked up on that as well, really strange. The Japanese judicial system is sometimes just so bizarre.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Uhmm the coroner couldn't tell the difference between stroke and choking in the autopsy? Doesn't make sense. How many million yen were spent ultimately vindicating this poor nurse from a 200000 yen fine?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This poor nurse had her life ruined because of an insane accusation. 6 years to clear her name. Insane.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Japanese judicial system is sometimes just so bizarre.

Sure is when you only read English news.

The lady ate the doughnut and fell unconscious immediately. She was brought to a hospital where she died 1 month later from a stroke.

6 years to clear her name. 

Nobody blames her. In fact 700 000 signatures were delivered to the Tokyo High Court demanding her acquittal.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Nobody blames her.

A court of law found her guilty and apparently whoever filed charges blamed her. And Japanese are notorious for thinking people guilty the instant a "suspect" (yougisha) title is affixed to their name. For all the names on that petition, there are plenty that will still feel she is guilty of something.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You wonder why anyone would want to work at a care home when they could be held responsible for the death of a patient through no fault of their own.

These type of cases do so much harm to those working in the care industry

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"I've been saying all this time how ridiculous it is that something that could happen to anyone at any nursing home could become a criminal case," she said. "Our voices finally reached the judiciary."

Ruined six years of a persons life over an accidental death precipitated by a doughnut. Unreal. Prosecutor must have spent time in an American law school.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I can see good reasons to have prosecuted the nurse and I am not convinced she should have been acquitted. The instructions for the patient was her snack was to be jelly. There was very likely a good medical reason for this. Nurses are supposed to read patient instructions or at least that is my understanding before giving them anything. Instead the nurse failed to follow the instructions for that patient, gave her a donut instead of jelly and the patient choked. It strikes me that the nurses negligence is the primary cause of the patient's suffering lack of oxygen to the brain and subsequent stroke and death.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Prosecutor must have spent time in an American law school.

Nope, a pure product of the Japanese Injustice System.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The lady ate the doughnut and fell unconscious immediately. She was brought to a hospital where she died 1 month later from a stroke.

...the nurse failed to follow the instructions for that patient, gave her a donut instead of jelly and the patient choked.

An elderly acquaintance died while napping in his chair after lunch. Does that mean the lunch caused his death? Or the nap? Or did he just die?

The details of this Lady's case are similarly unclear. You'd think after 6 years they would be comprehensible.

The eventual death seems to have been a result of the stoke; however, it is not at all clear whether choking brought on the stroke or whether it was an allergic reaction to eating it or the stroke happened simultaneously.

Kutan, referring to the Japanese version of the story claims the lady ate the donut and fell unconscious. The article, too, says "died after eating a doughnut." Did she consume the donut and then collapse? Or did she collapse while choking on the doughnut? Or did the doughnut confuse the details of what would have happened anyway had she been given jelly.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a dumb lawsuit. A woman dies from what seems to be a totally unrelated incident, and the nurse has to take responsibility for that? If I were the nurse, I would counter sue for loss of income for the last 6 years, defamation, and just plain stupidity of the justice system in this country!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Mirai

agree. plus

emotional damage/stress

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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