Q Why don't Japanese doctors tell patients the truth?

A In the United States, medical care is considered to be a service and the patients consider themselves to be customers. In Japan, many people consider the doctor to be the master and the patients as people who are indebted to the master for his or her services. There are people who feel that patients are obligated to trust the doctor implicitly.

In Japan, the practice of questioning the doctor is rarely done and the doctor also does not attempt to explain in detail the kind of treatment that will be administered. Not obtaining an informed consensus from the patient is still prevalent. Also, the Japanese are a people who try to avoid making unnecessary waves. Even when they harbor doubts about the treatment given by the doctor, it is very rare, unlike in the United States, that they would take legal action against the doctor.

In the United States, the patient is informed specifically on matters concerning method of treatment and the patient's consent is obtained before treatment is undertaken, otherwise the doctor would be in a vulnerable position to lose in the event a lawsuit is filed. Informing patients on the details of treatment is also a measure takes for the doctor's own self-protection.

Presently in Japan, more and more people are demanding a clear and detailed explanation concerning method of treatment. According to a newspaper survey, more than 60% of the people want to be told if they have cancer.