Doctor charged over '95 mercy killing
A doctor formerly on staff at Kansai Electric Power Co. Hospital in Fukushima Ward, Osaka, faces charges of murdering a terminally ill man he injected with a lethal dose of potassium chloride in an apparent mercy killing in 1995, it was learned Thursday.
Prosecutors Office on Thursday.
The doctor, 48, who now works at another hospital, reportedly told police he had decided to end the patient's life painlessly because he could not bear to see him or his family suffer any longer.
Police, however, said the doctor could have used other methods to relieve the man's pain, adding the case had failed to meet two of four criteria permitting euthanasia set by the Yokohama District Court.
The patient, a 46-year-old company employee of Osaka Prefecture, was hospitalized in February 1995. He was found to be in the terminal stages of rectal cancer and was given only a short time to live.
He reportedly told the doctor repeatedly that he wanted to die with his daughter by his side.
He lost consciousness days after being hospitalized and suffered fits that were witnessed by his family. On one occasion, his daughter became very distressed and tried to leave the room.
This prompted the doctor to inject the man with 10 cc of undiluted potassium chloride, killing the patient within minutes.
Diluted potassium chloride is usually administered over a long period in the treatment of such conditions as potassium deficiency.
Administering undiluted potassium chloride, however, causes cardiac arrest.
The hospital said it had received an anonymous letter in December last year claiming a mercy killing had taken place there.
The hospital notified police in March after its own investigation failed to uncover the facts surrounding the case.
Police said the doctor could not have known whether the patient, who was unconscious at the time, really was in pain, adding that he should have tried to relieve the pain by other means, such as morphine injections.
The doctor reportedly regrets his actions, but was quoted as saying that he felt he had no other choice.
The dead man's relatives have not demanded that any action be taken against the doctor.
In a written statement, the hospital's director, Haruki Mikawa, said he would await the results of the police investigation before commenting, but added that the hospital would do its best to prevent similar events from occuring.
A doctor at Tokai University Hospital in Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture, was indicted on murder charges after allegedly injecting a terminally ill cancer patient with potassium chloride in 1991.
The Yokohama District Court sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for two years, saying it had not been clear that the comatose patient really wanted to die.
The Kyoto prefectural police sent papers to prosecutors on a director of Kokuho Keihoku Hospital in Keihokucho, Kyoto Prefecture, on charges of injecting a terminally ill cancer patient with a lethal dose of muscle relaxant in 1996.
Prosecutors said the doctor had acted inappropriately, but decided not to indict him due to a lack of evidence.A doctor at Kawasaki Kyodo Hospital in Kawasaki is standing trial for the alleged murder of a patient she injected with a muscle relaxant in 1998.
Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun