Japanese Official: 'Let Elderly People Hurry Up and Die'

By Susan Jones | January 22, 2013 | 9:52 AM EST

Former Japan Prime Minister Taro Aso now serves as the country's finance minister. (AP File Photo)

From The Guardian (U.K.): Taro Aso, Japan's 72-year-old finance minister, says he's worried about the financial burden that end-of-life care is placing on his country.

"Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die," The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying on Monday. "I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government," he said during a meeting on social security reforms. "The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die."

The newspaper noted that almost a quarter of Japan's population is over 60, as is Aso. The Guardian also reported that rising welfare costs prompted last year's decision to double Japan's consumption [sales] tax to 10 percent over the next three years.

Later in an attempt to clarify his comments, Aso said he was speaking "what I personally believe, not what the end-of-life medical care system should be." He said he has directed his family to withhold life-prolonging care for him.

But in 2008, while serving as prime minister, Aso talked about seeing eldering people in their late 60s "who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor." He asked then, "Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I'm paying more in taxes."