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Tokyo Adventist Hospital Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Founding of the Palliative Care Unit
March 14, 2017
A special ceremony was held on November 13, 2016, as Tokyo Adventist Hospital celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the palliative care unit, commonly known as inpatient hospice. The Seventh-day Adventist Amanuma Church located next to the hospital was the venue of the event, attended by more than 200 people from the neighboring medical communities, the church and its institutions, and employees.

In Japan, the leading cause of death is cancer, which takes the lives of about half of the population. Acute care hospitals are eager to treat cancer patients with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. When the disease progresses to the terminal stage, however, patients are asked to move to other institutions that provide symptom palliations only. Many Japanese people prefer to spend the last days of their lives at the hospitals, not at their homes, but facilities specializing in terminal care were scarce before 1990, and the patients had nowhere to go, creating the term “cancer refugee.”

Realizing the growing need and committing to providing whole person care, Tokyo Adventist Hospital opened the palliative care unit in 1996, the first of such in Metropolitan Tokyo. It started out with 12 beds and 2 physicians, and has now been expanded to 20 beds with 4 physicians. The unit is supported by nurses, chaplains, dentists, dieticians, medical social workers, and many volunteers, all working together to serve the patients in their terminal stages.

To those with no hope for cure, the unit provides not only relief for agonizing physical symptoms but also tries to support them spiritually by sharing with them the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life in heaven. They also counsel family members as they face the loss of their loved ones and help them through the tough times with promises of peace and comfort given by God to His faithful people.

During the ceremony, the footsteps of the palliative care unit were shared, and words of appreciation were expressed for the support and contributions received during the past 20 years. Special music was provided by three different groups of employees. Congratulatory speeches were given by three individuals: the head of Japan National Hospital Network, president of the local Medical Association, and Elder Masumi Shimada, president of Japan Union Conference. The keynote speaker was Dr. Kazuhiko Hongo, former president of Tokyo Adventist Hospital.

The palliative care unit of Tokyo Adventist Hospital will continue to care for patients in their terminal stages in the best possible way, knowing that everyone has to face death some day and that those last days are when people need the most spiritual support and when God can intervene in effective and personal ways.

We hope we can be God’s instruments to win souls to Him through the work of palliative medicine here in Tokyo, Japan. Medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel, and Tokyo Adventist Hospital strives to fulfill its mission statement, that is, to make man whole through Christ’s love. 

Article by Toshihiro Nishino, MD, President, Tokyo Adventist Hospital