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AFP, WALL STREET JOURNAL, JAPAN TIMES (Japan)

Worldcrunch

TOKYO – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said during a meeting that elderly people should “hurry up and die.”

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Taro Aso. Photo Sebastian Derungs

“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. You cannot sleep well when you think it’s all being paid for by the government,” the 72-year-old political veteran said during a Monday meeting of the National Council on Social Security Reforms. “This won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die."

He said that he had left written instructions that his life not be artificially prolonged: “I don’t need that kind of care. I will die quickly,” he concluded.

During the meeting, he reportedly referred to “tube people” when talking of patients who cannot feed themselves.

Aso, a former prime minister who also currently serves as deputy prime minister, has a “long history of planting his foot firmly in his mouth,” according to the AFP. His tenure as prime minister only lasted a year, from Sept. 2008 to Sept. 2009.

When he was prime minister, his repeated gaffes were the target of media criticism, reports the Japan Times.

In November 2008, he had already targeted the elderly, saying: “Going to class reunions at the age of 67 or 68, I see feeble old people who go to the doctors’ a lot…My medical expenses are a lot lower because I walk and so on…Why should I have to pay for those who just eat and drink and make no effort?” reports the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Japan blog.

Despite his gaffes, writes the Japan Times, Aso is also widely considered a smooth speaker with wit and humor. Following a technical problem with an interpreter's microphone during his speech at the U.N. in Sept. 2008, he stopped and said this "is not a Japanese machine, I think."

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