December 4, 2001
Yoshinori Kawakami, Tachikawa Branch Office
Thatfs what we want to hear!
In Japan, more than 100,000 persons injure
their spinal cord in traffic or sports-related
accidents, paralyzing whole or half the body. It is said that there are 100,000 persons who have been injured
and that the number is increasing by approximately
5,000 every year. Although anyone may damage
their spine, the system of medical treatment
and rehabilitation in Japan falls far behind
those in the US. Why is this so? We interviewed Mr. Norio Fujiki who has an
injured spinal cord and is the Deputy Chairperson
of the Japan Spinal Cord Foundation, the
Japanese non-profit corporation, founded
in Fuchu-city, Tokyo.
Aiming for an Establishment of Medical Treatment
Difference of Systems of Rehabilitation between
Japan and the US
n What are the differences in the systems of
medical treatment and rehabilitation
Japan and the US?
One of them is the view on rehabilitation.
For instance, in the case of neck injury
in a traffic accident, in the US, after the neck is stabilized, fingers, legs,
abdominal muscles or other body parts
vaguely expected to move, are thoroughly
exercised and strengthened. Even if the injured are not fully recovered,
they want to increase what they can
themselves. As the muscles will be stiff and degenerate
if not used, rehabilitation at an early
is quite important for these injured
Whereas in Japan, because saving the lives
of injured persons requires so much
effort, little value is placed on early rehabilitation.
. Rehabilitation is only started after two
weeks or so to avoid un
reasonable force on the body. In many cases, high priority for the entrance
to rehabilitation facilities is given
the persons who are expected to recover,
and seriously injured persons are not
given a chance to receive rehabilitation
treatment. Moreover, because hospitals rarely keep the
seriously injured for long periods
it creates a heavy burden on the families.
n What are the differences in the social system?
In the US, the source of funds is secured
because a portion of the fines for
regulation violations is allocated
treatment or the rehabilitation of
with an injured spinal cord. However, the medical treatment fee system
in Japan sets a maximum amount for
per patient, which restricts the number
care staff. Recently in Japan there have been cases of
people visiting the U.S. to receive
treatment, spending large amounts of
I know of 4 or 5 cases.
Continuing Useful Information Delivery
n Why is the Japanese treatment system behind
I suppose it is because of shortage of information
on spinal cord injury. Medical experts and administrative officials
concerned do not correctly grasp the
situation. It could be regarded as a new problem due
to medical progress. In the past, spinal cord injury resulted
in death within a few years if it was
reversed by medical treatment. These days, the injured person is alive although
he/she is not fully recovered.
n What are the activities of the Foundation?
Being established 5 years ago, there are
about 10 people with spinal cord injuries
and medical experts working for the
foundation. We are aiming for the establishment of a
medical treatment system for spinal
injury by spreading awareness of the
situation to related parties and the
public through lectures, publications
an Internet homepage.
Although there is no example yet, we want
to fund research for reproduction technology
of a spine. Technology progress is rapid. There have been several successful experiments
on animals, and an application to humans
is being developed. It is within sight of the near future that
a person who has an injured spinal
recover its functions.
The source of revenue of this foundation
is not from membership fees but from
donations. It does not make sense to provide information
to members only because anyone may
damage. Receiving donations from a wide variety of
people, we offer basically free publications
and consultation. Although financially tight, we want to continue
activities such as delivery of useful
that satisfy donors.