Relative contradicts surgeon’s explanation

Kyodo

A surgeon who has been connected to seven deaths at a hospital in Imizu, Toyama Prefecture, tried to remove the respirator of a 78-year-old patient last October without obtaining the consent of his family, one of the former patient’s relatives said Sunday.

“We had not demanded that the respirator be removed. The surgeon did not obtain our consent,” the unnamed family member said, contradicting an earlier explanation from Imizu City Hospital.

The hospital had quoted the surgeon, who is the head of its surgery department, as saying the family told him it wanted him to remove the respirator.

Police have been investigating the deaths of seven other patients who stayed at the hospital from 2000 to 2005 as potential murder cases, according to the Imizu city government and the police. Each of the patients, aged in their 50s to 90s, died after the surgeon removed their respirators.

On Saturday the hospital quoted the 50-year-old surgeon as saying he had removed the respirators of the seven, five of whom suffered from cancer, with the consent of their families but not the patients themselves. He has also been quoted as saying he removed the respirators for the patients’ sake and that their deaths were “dignified.”

Based on a 1995 Yokohama District Court ruling, euthanasia via dosing or other acts by doctors is deemed legal in Japan only if four conditions are met — the patient’s death is imminent, there is unendurable pain, there is no other way to remove or alleviate pain, and the patient wishes to be euthanized.

The cases came to light in October when a nurse told the deputy chief of the hospital that the surgeon was going to euthanize the 78-year-old patient, who was admitted after having a stroke earlier in the month.