In October, New Zealand voters approved a referendum proposal to legalize medically assisted suicide, thus joining a small group of countries and territories that allow euthanasia under specific circumstances. The proposal sprang from a lawsuit brought by a lawyer dying from a brain tumor, and while she herself was not seeking to end her life prematurely, she felt frustrated that the option did not exist. In court, she argued that euthanasia was not suicide, which is a crime, because the person in question was going to die anyway of the affliction that made their life difficult. She lost the case and died in 2015, but her husband continued to work on the issue, and, as a result, the topic received attention from the media, which discussed the ramifications, including what kind of safeguards were needed to prevent patients from simply ending their lives due to advanced age or disability.

Such a discussion has yet to emerge in Japan, although a criminal case in Kyoto that came to light in July has highlighted the issue in a sensational way. Two doctors were arrested on suspicion of murder after they helped a woman named Yuri Hayashi with the neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) fulfill her wish to die. One of the doctors, Yoshikazu Okubo, provides hospice care, and apparently read on social media of Hayashi's desire. He somehow contacted her and offered to help. Hayashi ended her life last November, but because of her condition, which made it impossible for her to feed herself or move any part of her body, the physicians' assistance necessarily required more than just providing a lethal dose of drugs.

Media coverage has focused mainly on the criminal aspect. Prior to her death, Hayashi transferred ¥1.3 million to the bank account of Naoki Yamamoto, the second doctor arrested, thus prompting the police to charge both physicians with "murder by contract." Police have released scant information about Yamamoto, although he may have written a how-to book about helping someone die without any signs that it was an assisted suicide. Police insist that Hayashi's death is not a case of euthanasia.