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Recent comments by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso about the elderly in Japan, while controversial, make a great deal of sense to me because of my personal experience.

My mother suffered a massive brain hemorrhage two years ago in Tokyo, where she had lived in an assisted living facility. She was 85. By the time I was reached in New York where I live, she had undergone brain surgery. I was in Tokyo within 48 hours and found her in intensive care, her life hanging by a thread after having had part of her brain removed. A young surgeon informed me that her condition was dire and insisted that she have a minor surgery to insert a tracheal device so that she could breathe more comfortably. The long-term consequences of this procedure were not told to me.

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