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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 November 28 - December 4  > Rookie nurse’s suicide recognized as caused from overwork
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2018 November 28 - December 4 [LABOR]

Rookie nurse’s suicide recognized as caused from overwork

November 30, 2018

The mother of a nurse who committed suicide at the age of 23 due to overwork-induced depression has won official recognition of her daughter’s death as work-related.

In April 2012 after graduating from university, the deceased, Sugimoto Aya, began working at Sapporo Medical Center run by the Federation of National Public Service Personnel Mutual Aid Associations in Hokkaido. Although she was a rookie, she was assigned to a ward for critically ill patients which requires constant care around the clock.

Aya’s mother described how hard her daughter worked. Aya always came home late at night and even after returning home, she still worked on reports and on improving her skills based on instructions received from her seniors. Sometimes, she woke up 4 a.m. after just a few hours’ nap in order to get to work.

One month after Aya started her career as a nurse, the number of overtime hours she worked in May exceeded 90 hours, which was counted in accordance with the formal underreported record of her work time. From this time, she worked 65-85 hours of overtime every month and suffered from symptoms of depression. On November 30, she killed herself, leaving a suicide note stating that she was physically and mentally overwhelmed by the excessively heavy and demanding workloads.

The bereaved mother filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Sapporo labor standards inspection office. However, her claim was rejected on the grounds that the number of monthly overtime hours worked by Aya fell short of 100 hours, the government-set standard for the official recognition of work-related deaths (karoshio). Seeking the revocation of this decision, the mother in December 2016 took the case to the Sapporo District Court.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s legal team claimed that in line with judicial precedents, hours that Aya used at her home to improve her skills and knowledge should be included in the total number of monthly overtime hours.

On October 17 this year, the Hokkaido Labor Bureau determined that Aya’s suicide was caused from more than 100 hours of overtime in a month.

In reaction to this decision, Aya’s mother said, “I’ll continue calling for improving medical workers’ working conditions in order to prevent karoshi from occurring again.”

Past related articles:
> JCP Koike attends public debate on excessively long working hours of doctors [November 25, 2018]
> 60% of nurses under two-shift system work more than 16 hours on night shifts [November 13, 2018]
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