• Kyodo

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A family member of a patient who died after her respirator was removed at a hospital in Imizu, Toyama Prefecture, has told Kyodo News he asked a surgeon to remove the respirator, revealing the surgeon did not act solely on his own in allowing the woman to die.

The patient’s relative said there was no letter of consent. The surgeon, 50, is now on involuntarily leave.

“I feel sorry for his current situation because he has been doing his best,” the patient’s relative said.

The surgeon, head of Imizu City Hospital’s surgery department, has also been questioned by Toyama police.

The relative said the patient, who was in her 50s, was diagnosed with stomach cancer several years ago before she was hospitalized after contracting influenza.

Her condition worsened, and she was put on a respirator when she could no longer breathe on her own, he said.

The surgeon gave no detailed explanation about his decision to put her on a respirator, saying, “it was only natural” to do so, according to the relative.

Later, the man was told by hospital staff that there was no hope for the woman’s recovery. Because she used to say she would not want to exist on life support, the man consulted with other relatives and asked the surgeon to remove the respirator, he said.

The surgeon turned off the switch and a nurse removed the respirator tubes, he said.

The surgeon has told Kyodo News and others that he obtained consent from the families of six patients who died at the hospital between 2000 and 2005. Another surgeon was in charge of a seventh patient who died, the surgeon said.