September 17, 2010

JAPAN: Nurse acquitted of tormenting elderly patients

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FUKUOKA , Japan / The Japan Times / Life in Japan / Kyodo / September 17, 2010

A high court acquitted a nurse in Fukuoka Prefecture on Thursday of injuring two elderly patients with dementia whose nails were removed while she cut them in 2007, recognizing her act as "necessary and proper" nursing care.

Free: Nurse Satomi Ueda holds a news conference in Fukuoka on Thursday after she was acquitted of injuring two elderly patients. KYODO PHOTO

In scrapping a lower court decision that found Satomi Ueda, 44, guilty and gave her a suspended prison term, the Fukuoka High Court also raised doubts about the credibility of her confessions to investigators in which she said she intentionally removed the nails of the female patients, aged 89 and 70.

"Some suspicions remain that the confessions could have been either forced or led" by the investigators, presiding Judge Hiroo Suyama said in handing down the ruling.

Ueda said she was happy with the decision and that she can now "continue to serve as a nurse with a sense of relief."

The high court said bleeding resulting from cutting too deeply may indicate a certain degree of inappropriateness but as "as an act of nursing care, the means and method she took did not go beyond the reasonable range."

The prosecutors had accused her of injuring the patients by removing their nails. They called the high-court decision regrettable and said they will review the ruling to decide their next move.

The Kokura branch of the Fukuoka District Court in March last year sentenced Ueda to six months in prison, suspended for three years, saying she took pleasure in making the patients bleed by cutting their nails.

The high court ruling said in June 2007, she clipped the toenails of the two patients with dedicated clippers at a hospital in Kitakyushu. Both bled slightly.

The right middle fingernail of the 70-year-old patient came off when Ueda removed a bandage that was covering the nail to see its condition and she did not intentionally remove the nail, according to the ruling.

The court said Ueda could be blamed for clipping the right thumbnails of the two patients too deep, but that act was intended for nursing care and was necessary, the decision said.

(C) The Japan Times