Prosecutors on Thursday indicted two doctors over the death of a terminally ill 51-year-old woman with ALS, alleging they took part in her medically assisted suicide last year with her consent.
Yoshikazu Okubo, 42, and Naoki Yamamoto, 43, were arrested in July for allegedly giving Yuri Hayashi a lethal dose of a sedative drug at her home in the city of Kyoto last November. Before her death, the woman had transferred ¥1.3 million to Yamamoto’s bank account.
The disease Hayashi suffered, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease with no fundamental treatments established. Afflicted since 2011 and hardly able to move, she is believed to have wished to die by euthanasia.
According to investigative sources, Okubo, who operates a medical clinic in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, and Yamamoto, a doctor living in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, visited Hayashi at her Kyoto apartment on Nov. 30, pretending to be her acquaintances. They were not her attending physicians.
They left about 10 minutes later, and a caretaker, who had left the room while Hayashi was with the doctors, found her unconscious soon after.
She was pronounced dead at a hospital and traces of the sedative barbiturate, which acts as a central nervous system depressant, were detected in her body, the sources said.
Okubo is believed to have begun communicating with Hayashi through private direct messages on Twitter 11 months before the incident, discussing dates and fees for the assisted death, and bought the barbiturate drug around one month before the alleged murder, according to the sources.
“I don’t know why I have to live with such a body,” Hayashi had written in her blog before her death, using a device that enabled her to write with a personal computer that detected her eye movements.
In Japan, euthanasia is not legally recognized.
Certain groups for disabled people argue that condoning assisted suicide threatens the life and dignity of those with disabilities or terminally ill patients, while others argue those with terminal illnesses have the right to determine their own fate.