Photo/IllutrationThe front of Oiki Ladies Clinic in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture (Chinami Tajika)

IZUMI, Osaka Prefecture--The director of an obstetrics and gynecology clinic here faces possible charges for contributing to a patient’s death by failing to provide appropriate care while she was having difficulty breathing during her painless labor in January.

In a rare move, Osaka prefectural police sent the case to prosecutors on Oct. 6, filed as professional negligence resulting in death.

It is highly unusual for a medical practitioner to face the possibility of criminal charges for such a botch-up, even though a number of incidents surrounding painless labor have been reported in Japan.

According to police, when 31-year-old Chie Nagamura developed dyspnea while giving birth to her second daughter in a painless labor on Jan. 10, obstetrician Masaaki Oiki, 59, director of Oiki Ladies Clinic, failed to perform necessary measures to enable her to breathe, leading to her death on Jan. 20 at another hospital she was admitted to.

The baby girl was delivered by Caesarean section after her mother lost consciousness and survived.

After Nagamura received surgical anesthesia by having a small tube inserted outside her spinal dura mater, she complained of having difficulty breathing. Her breathing and heart both stopped, and Oiki and nurses attempted artificial respiration and heart massage.

She was transferred in an emergency to another hospital in the neighboring city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. She died there 10 days later without regaining consciousness.

Generally, law enforcement officials are cautious in pressing criminal charges for medical mishaps. Almost no precedent case exists in relation to deaths during painless labor.

The prefectural police’s judicial autopsy and multiple expert opinions pointed to the high possibility that Nagamura suffered dyspnea because the anesthesia too strongly affected her nervous system.

Oiki tried to restore her breathing, but did not conduct “forced breathing” by means such as inserting an endotracheal tube, which the police decided could be grounds for negligence.

Forced breathing is a common medical procedure performed by doctors in any speciality when their patients cannot breathe unaided.

According to the police, Oiki told them in an interview that he “fell into a panic” and “could not perform forced breathing.”

“I could not keep up with the speed of how her condition deteriorated so quickly,” he was quoted as saying.

Oiki's attorney said, “I cannot give you details, but the director said that he did ‘everything he could’ (to save her).”

(This article was written by Toshiya Obu and Ken Hasegawa.)