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Keywords:

  • culture;
  • ethics;
  • Japan;
  • premature infant;
  • health care;
  • universal health insurance

This essay is a story about a cultural interaction between a Japanese mother and a Chinese young mother whose baby was premature. When I was staying in a hospital in Japan to deliver my second son, I shared a room with this mother. She delivered her baby very early—at 25 weeks of pregnancy. Her baby received extensive medical treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit. However, this Chinese young mother appeared bewildered about the communication from the Japanese hospital staff because Japanese hospital's communication about the medical care of premature infants was very different from China. One day at midnight, she spoke with me about having deep uneasiness about the situation and having many unanswered questions. After this cultural experience, I began to think more deeply about cultural differences in terms of health and illness and the influence of universal health insurance on the lives of the families of premature infants. I also recognized that the value of life is not calculated in the same fashion globally.