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Japan doctor takes own life after 200+ hours of overtime work

By NICK GARCIA Published Aug 25, 2023 5:18 pm

TW: This article contains mentions of suicide.

A 26-year-old doctor in Japan took his own life last May 2022 after 200 plus hours of overtime work, his family said earlier this August.

CNN International, citing local broadcaster NHK, reported that Takashima Shingo had been working as a resident doctor at Konan Medical Center in Kobe City. He worked for over 207 hours during the month before his death and hadn't taken a day off for three months, according to NHK.

In a news conference last Aug. 18, Shingo's mother Junko remembered how her son would say “it was too hard” and that “no one would help him."

“I think the environment put him over the edge,” she said. "I sincerely hope that the working environment for doctors will be improved so that the same thing will not happen again in the future.”

Shingo's brother said 200 hours of overtime is an "unbelievable number." He also criticized Konan Medical Center for not "taking a solid approach to labor management in the first place.”

The hospital in a press conference last week denied the accusations.

But the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare last June ruled that Shingo's death was a work-related incident due to the long hours.

The government body has since noted Japan's overwork culture, with employees reporting punishing hours, high pressure from supervisors, and deference to the company. This led to the phenomenon called karoshi or "death by overwork."

A spokesperson for Konan Medical Center in the press conference said it was "not possible to accurately determine working hours," as doctors are given a "very high degree of freedom." The doctors supposedly spend time "studying on their own and sleeping according to their physiological needs" so "many times."

Another spokesperson also told CNN that it won't give further comment, noting the hospital doesn't consider Shingo's case as overtime work.

If you think you, your friend, or your family member is in need of help, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.