My student told me about this the other day and I was shocked. Before I explain what happened I should explain about the health care system a bit. In Japan, everyone has health insurance either through your company or you pay yourself (if you are self employed or have a part time job etc). Even if it is through a company, it comes out of your pay. The amount you pay is tied to how much money you make. If you are sick and go to a doctor you pay only 30% of the doctor's fee out of pocket-the rest is covered by your health insurance. Okay...now to the story.
A man tried to kill himself (don't know how) but was rescued. He was taken to a hospital and they hooked him up to machines and then stated that he was brain dead. In Japan, there is no "pulling the plug" even if every doctor agrees that the person is brain dead and will never wake up. Also, if you try to kill yourself but fail and need medical attention you have no health insurance. Even though you paid it your whole life you lose it at that point. So, this man is brain dead and hooked up to machines that cost at least $1,000 per day (I swear my student told me $10,000 a day but I have to check with her again but it almost makes little difference as both are beyond the ability of most people to pay). He has a wife and 2 small kids. They have no way to pay this for even 1 month never mind till he dies a "natural" death. At some point the man's mother decides she can't watch her son's family go through this and goes to the hospital and kills him with a kitchen knife. She, of course, is arrested. She told the judge that she knew this is what her son would have wanted-he never would have wanted his family to suffer like this. She will go to jail for 3 years. I'm sure the sentence is light given the circumstances but still.....I can't even imagine being in that situation. I was shocked to learn that there is no way to "pull the plug" and let the person die naturally. I was told that "the heart is still beating" so you can't "pull the plug" (of course the heart is beating because the machine is doing it!). Apparently the government might take a look at this and make some changes. I was told that there are many many brain dead people in Japan and many families with no option of letting them go.
And since I am writing about this I thought I would share another probably little known fact about Japan (unless I already wrote about this) and suicide. If your husband (or wife or under age child) kills themselves by jumping in front of a train, you have to pay for the clean up and pay the train company compensation for lost time etc. Sadly, jumping in front of trains is pretty common here. I can't imagine having to deal with losing my husband and then getting a bill!
I really hope they make a change in the law so that other families don't go through what the family went through.