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Keywords:

  • euthanasia;
  • death with dignity;
  • good death;
  • euthanasia/death with dignity as either suicide or murder

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the two characteristics of the way the issue of euthanasia/death with dignity has been discussed in Japan, compared with the situation in Europe and the USA. The two characteristics are: (i) that the concept of “euthanasia” is sharply distinguished from that of “death with dignity” in Japan in that the former only refers to the killing of a patient by administration of a lethal drug while the latter refers to letting a patient die by withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging medical treatments; and (ii) that the view that it is sinful to commit suicide is not as common in Japan as it is in the West. In order to clarify these characteristics, I examine the nature of suicide and murder in relation to the issue of euthanasia and death with dignity while briefly reviewing the history of the debates in Japan in order to see how the characteristic understanding of “death with dignity” has generated. I also clarify, by giving examples, the structure of those narratives with regards to the “good manner of dying,” which excludes from society the elderly and people with incurable diseases and ones with motor and intellectual disabilities. In the end, I describe how biopolitics functions in the current Japanese situation.