National

Top court dismisses euthanasia appeal

Kyodo News

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a doctor convicted of killing a comatose patient in 1998, sources said Wednesday.

The decision by the top court’s Third Petty Bench finalizes the Tokyo High Court ruling that sentenced Setsuko Suda, 55, to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years.

Suda was convicted of pulling out a tube securing the airway of a 58-year-old comatose patient at a hospital in Kawasaki at the family’s request, according to the sources.

Mutsuo Tahara, the presiding justice in the case, said Suda’s conduct did not constitute the termination of treatment permissible under law, they said.

Tahara said Suda did not perform the necessary tests to see whether the patient was really unrecoverable.

Suda cited the family’s request in seeking to overturn her conviction.

But Tahara said the doctor did not sufficiently inform the family and the court did not see any presumption of the patient’s will.

The decision is the first Supreme Court ruling on whether it is legal for a doctor to halt treatment prolonging the life of a terminally ill patient.

The decision, dated Monday and made by a consensus of all five justices on the bench, did not mention any conditions for a doctor to be excused, the sources said.

“Honestly speaking, it is a very regrettable decision. Only I was made responsible,” Suda told reporters at her clinic in Yokohama on Wednesday.

The Yokohama District Court sentenced Suda to three years in prison, suspended for five years, saying she killed the patient.

Suda treated the man when he was hospitalized at Kawasaki Kyodo Hospital on Nov. 2, 1998. He was in a comatose state caused by a severe asthma attack.

On Nov. 16, Suda removed the tracheal tube at the request of the family, but seeing that the patient started to suffer, she ordered a nurse to administer a muscle relaxant, causing him to suffocate.