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Vox Populi: Penalizing people who refuse to be hospitalized for virus is absurd

  • January 25, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 1:48 p.m.
  • English Press

Everything that happens in Lewis Carroll’s novel “Through the Looking-Glass” is absurd as it is unfolding in the topsy-turvy world of a mirror.


When Alice tries to walk straight, she ends up moving in the opposite direction. Store shelves are filled with goods, but one she sets her eyes on becomes empty.


In one scene, Alice tells the Red Queen, who reigns in that world, that she is thirsty. The queen says, “I know what you’d like,” and offers a dried-out biscuit instead of water.


I feel as if we are living in a similarly absurd drama.


We want a medical system that ensures that those infected with the novel coronavirus are admitted to a hospital and receive treatment. But instead we have been offered a penalty that can imprison patients who refuse to be hospitalized.


The provision has been included in a bill to revise the related law that the Cabinet approved on Jan. 22.


Patients who refuse to be hospitalized can be imprisoned for up to one year or fined a maximum of 1 million yen ($9,637) under the proposed amendment.


In reality, many patients are being forced to stay at home because there are no hospitals that can admit them. A number of patients have died while trying to recover at home.


There is also reason to worry about the possible negative effects of the proposed penalty.


Some people may decide not to get tested to avoid any trouble they may face.


The legal provision could also promote discrimination and prejudice against patients as it gives the impression that hospitalization is something being forced on people under the threat of penalty.


It is also absurd if the burden of dealing with COVID-19 patients is borne by a limited number of hospitals.


Other proposed revisions would also empower the government to “recommend” that medical institutions secure beds for patients, but the new measure should be used wisely.


A proliferation of recommendations that ignore the reality that medical institutions face can only generate more absurd situations.


–The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 24


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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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