Voluntary assisted death in present-day Japan: A case for dignity

Atsushi Asai, Miki Fukuyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


No laws or official guidelines govern medical assistance for dying in Japan. However, over the past several years, cases of assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, rarely disclosed until recently, have occurred in close succession. Inspired by these events, ethical, legal, and social debates on a patient’s right to die have arisen in Japan, as it has in many other countries. Several surveys of Japanese people’s attitudes towards voluntary assisted dying suggest that a certain number of Japanese prefer active euthanasia. Against this background, it is important to discuss voluntary assisted dying cases in Japan and the Japanese views on them and to consider their implications. We review three recent Japanese voluntary assisted dying cases and discuss the various objections to voluntary assisted dying that have been published in response to these in various media outlets. Our counterarguments include the double suffering of people who are unable to give up their desire to die, individuality of death, variability of culture, problem of being an annoyance to (burden on) others, a slippery slope argument supporting voluntary assisted dying, and unfair claims about responsibility and excessive burden on people who are unable to give up their desire to die. We also point out the psychocultural and social problems in Japanese society that these objections reflect, and argue that voluntary assisted dying can be ethically acceptable under certain conditions. We conclude that Japanese society must change in order to enable those who sincerely wish to die to do so in a better way.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Ethics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Case study
  • culture
  • death with dignity
  • Japan
  • medical ethics
  • voluntary assisted dying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy


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