A sedative was detected in the body of a terminally ill Kyoto woman who was allegedly killed by two doctors with her consent, investigative sources said Saturday.
The Kyoto Prefectural Police believe the two doctors, both men, were paid to inject barbiturate sedatives into her gastric fistula, a device used to guide food directly to the stomach.
According to medical sources, the sedative is used to treat epilepsy patients and is not sold on the market. The drug, which has strong side effects and causes dependence syndrome, can suppress breathing and lead to death if injected in large quantities. It is used by suicide-support groups in Europe and the United States.
A prescription is required to buy the drug but doctors can obtain it easily, the sources said. The sedative comes in two varieties, one that takes immediate effect and another that works gradually. The former has been used to conduct euthanasia and capital punishment in the United States. Both come in multiple forms ranging from tablets and powders to injectable solutions and are used often by doctors to induce deep sleep, for example.
Investigative sources said Yuri Hayashi, 51, who had the progressive neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, used a gastric fistula.
The two doctors, Yoshikazu Okubo, who runs a clinic in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, and Naoki Yamamoto, a doctor in Tokyo, were arrested Thursday on suspicion of assisting death by administering Hayashi a lethal drug with her consent.
The doctors allegedly got together in the city of Kyoto on the day of her death last November and visited Hayashi at her condominium by pretending to be her acquaintances.
They left about five to 10 minutes later, and the caretaker found Hayashi unconscious soon after. She was transported to a hospital, where she died.
The police opened an investigation after an unfamiliar substance was found in her body. The police believe the doctors made thorough preparations on the day she died so they could leave the scene quickly.
The two were school acquaintances. Yamamoto is suspecgted of writing an electronic book about technology that can be used to let people die without signs of foul play, and the police are investigating the details, including how the book was published.
ALS is an uncurable disease that causes gradual paralysis. There are about 10,000 ALS patients in Japan.
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