About Living Wills in Japan

A living will is generally based on the concept of death with dignity. This generally encompasses the right of the individual to die with dignity by choosing to not use or to discontinue the use of life-sustaining treatment for patients with a terminal disease where there is little or no hope of recovery. Although modern medicine has become capable of prolonging the lives of patients with advanced technology, patients and their caregivers are increasingly concerned about end-of-life options that allow them the choice of death with dignity.

The basic concern is whether the treatment that merely prolongs life is ultimately beneficial for the patient. Recently, the general thought in Japan is that prolonged illness harms the patient and harms their dignity.

Although generally the right of the individual to a death with dignity in the form of a living is recognized overseas, living wills in Japan aare not legally binding.

In other words, even if a living will is made, medical professionals are not obligated to follow it. In addition, whether a life-prolonging treatment is excessive or not is also a matter of medical judgment, and the wishes of the individual may not always be respected. However, even so, doctors nowadays often confirm their intentions with the patient or the patient's family.

Although it is natural for the patient himself or herself to express his or her intention with respect to life-prolonging medical treatment, the family will need to make that decisions in cases where the patient is not capable of expressing his or her intention. Even among family members, opinions differ, and it may seem cruel to make a life-threatening decision for a beloved family member.

For these reasons, we believe that each person should make a living will that clearly indicates his or intention with respect to life-prolonging medical treatment. Recently, it has become possible to have a notarized living will prepared. With such a document, medical professionals and family members are more likely to respect your wishes.

In conclusion, it is worthwhile to make a living will. Even though it is not legally binding in Japan, it still has a persuasive effect. Kobe Legal Partners would be more than happy to consult with you about preparing a living will.