April 14, 2024


A trickle of conflicting information about a Japanese surgeon accused of the mercy killing of seven patients shows the importance of terminology in discussing euthanasia. Now it appears that the unnamed doctor, who was the chief surgeon at a hospital in the city of Imizu, did not disconnect respirators so that his patients could die with dignity”. Instead, he told newspapers that that only six patients were involved and that he was asked by families to remove the respirators after it became clear that they were beyond recovery. He admits that he failed to obtain written consent for his actions. “I think I was imprudent,” he told reporters.

Although the facts of the case are still being pieced together, it does seem clear that it is not a clear-cut case of so-called “mercy killing”, although the Japanese media have consistently described it as such. According to euthanasia expert Wesley Smith, removing desperately ill people from a respirator is not necessarily euthanasia, at least as the term is used in the West, which refers to killing by some artificial means.