More males in Japan are undergoing esthetic surgical procedures to improve their appearance or boost their self esteem. But with these have come a variety of problems, particularly from doctors who pad their estimates tenfold, to the equivalent of what a wage-earner in his early twenties might take home in an entire year.
Yukan Fuji (Sept 9) reports that in June of this year, a group of Osaka attorneys, after setting up a telephone hotline to field complaints, became aware of how widespread the matter -- particularly for "delicate" male problems, for whom the victims feel they have nowhere else to air their concerns -- has become.
"From 10 years ago, we've been receiving a stream of complaints from victimized patients," says Hirohiko Ozaki, a member of the group of Osaka attorneys.
Most of these patients turned to legal help after undergoing circumcisions.
Only in a small number of cases are circumcisions necessary for medical reasons, and such individuals can make use of their national health insurance to have the procedure done inexpensively. But rather than provide such explanations, unethical dealers in the foreskin removal trade might tell them, "Your circulation is being constricted" or "There's a chance you'll develop cancer." And rather than giving them, say, a week's time to think things over or obtain a second opinion, push them to come to an immediate decision to proceed.
The clinics advertise such services for about 100,000 yen in magazine ads or on the Internet. But this is only to get the patient in the door. Once their manhood is about to go under the surgeon's scalpel, the doctors strongly urge them to agree to "optional" procedures, such as injections of collagen. As the doctors pile on the charges while ratcheting up the fear, some patients find themselves swindled to the tune of 1 million yen or more.
"Collagen is absorbed by the body after a brief duration, so such injections don't have any longlasting effect," says attorney Ozaki. "What's more, the doctors will say that before injecting it, they must first perform an allergy test.
"And when they warn a patient that they 'won't appear attractive to women' or 'might develop cancer,' we want these victims to know they're being lied to."
Complaints to the Consumer Affairs Center of Japan regarding esthetic surgery on males have been running at the rate of 240 to 290 cases a year for the past five years. Some 70% to 80% of these claims involve circumcisions, and the center's home page contains advisory warnings about unethical practices.
One individual, while still a minor, saw an ad offering circumcisions for 80,000 to 100,000 yen on the clinic's website, but was caught with his pants down -- literally in this case -- when the doctor warned him of possible complications from procedures that cut corners on costs (so to speak) and wound up getting billed 800,000 yen, to be paid in installments.
When the attorney was shown the credit contract, he arranged for the youth to visit a urologist, who said that the same procedure could have been performed under the national insurance scheme. With the patient paying 30% of total charges, it would have cost him about 6,000 yen.
The center pressured the doctor to accept the 30,000 yen deposit the youth had already paid and waive the remaining balance.
Ozaki says that Japan has adopted stricter professional guidelines regarding such practices, with tougher new penalties to discourage violators.
A worker at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare told Yukan Fuji that they are currently in the process of evaluating the effectiveness of the revised regulations. Meanwhile, to avoid becoming a victim, Ozaki advises anyone in need of medical advice concerning their "delicate" problem to first see a qualified urologist to determine if there a problem really exists, and if there is, whether or not it can be treated at reasonable cost under the health insurance scheme.© Japan Today