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The Japanese Association of Acute Medicine issued a statement this week approving the practice of euthanasia for terminally-ill patients under certain circumstances. A person can be euthanized if they ask for it in writing, if a review is done by a panel of doctors when the will of the patient is unknown, or if the family is unable to make a decision.

According to the Kyodo news agency, this is the first case of medical association approving a document of this type. However, there is a precedent in the Japanese court system. Although current Japanese law is silent about euthanasia, some judges consider it when it is requested by a patient who is terminally ill and can no longer respond to treatment.

The statement indicates that doctors could practice euthanasia as long as the patient is supported by their family and has expressed his wishes in writing. If his wishes are not known and the family is unable to decide, a medical team will make the decision.

In March of 2006, reports surfaced of a hospital in Imizu, Japan that was disconnecting the respirators of patients between the ages of 50 and 90. According to hospital officials, in all cases the family consented, but consent of the patient was not always obtained.

In 1998, a doctor from Yokohama euthanized a comatose man with a lethal injection and was sentenced in 2005 to three years in prison.

[Cheryl Eckstein, Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN); Tokyo, 18Oct07;;; CHN is member of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life (WFDWRHL) Dr. Karl Gunning, Pres; N Valko, RN, 22Oct07]