a1 Executive Director of the Liaison Society for Ethics Committees of Medical Schools in Japan; President of the Japan Association of Bioethics; and Director of the International Bioethics Research Center, Institute of Religion and Culture, Kyoto Women's University
Crucial problems exist in understanding Japanese traditional customs with regard to autonomous decision making by patients in Japan. These problems are difficult to comprehend because they seem, by western standards, to defy logic. Questions that baffle those outside the Japanese tradition, include: Why do many Japanese patients hesitate to make medical treatment and care decisions for themselves without consulting family, close friends, or someone viewed as being in a superior position? Why do many Japanese physicians fail to disclose the truth directly to the patient, instead customarily conveying information to family members, despite the doctors' awareness of their legal obligation to protect the patient's privacy? Why do many Japanese physicians continue to question whether patients should be told the truth at all? What perpetuates Japan's widespread, but often unnoticed, neglect of the individual's right to self-determination in healthcare decision making?