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Japan health ministry withdraws end-of-life-care poster campaign after online backlash

The poster to promote the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's ACP service is seen in this image taken from its website.

TOKYO -- "Distressing," "Like a poster for a consultation on how to die," wrote patient groups and others online in reaction to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's new poster campaign to raise awareness of its Advance Care Planning (ACP) service, which aims to get more people prepared for the final stages of their lives.

ACP, also known informally as "the life meeting," is a ministry effort that seeks to get people and their families to speak to doctors and others repeatedly about what kind of care they should receive at the end of their life.

But a promotional campaign launched on Nov. 25, which included posters and video on the ministry website, was suspended on Nov. 26 after being subject to widespread criticism. As a result, physical posters will no longer be dispatched to municipal governments across Japan, and a related video will not be posted on the ministry website.

The posters feature comedian Kazutoyo Koyabu, 46, who also served on the selection committee to come up with the informal "life meeting" name. Dressed as a patient lying on a bed, he is seen looking up to a camera with a bewildered frown across his face as he contemplates the sudden end of his life, and laments not having said certain things and prepared sooner. The poster finishes off by encouraging people to conduct ACP before they end up like him.

Although there were also some comments in support of the poster, a representative for the health ministry said, "Taking into account the criticism, we have decided to suspend activities related to (the campaign) for now."

(Japanese original by Ryosuke Abe, Lifestyle & Medical News Department)

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