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Japanese ALS patient paid doctors before lethal drug dose: source

A vehicle carrying Naoki Yamamoto, one of the suspects in the death of an ALS patient, enters the Kyoto Prefectural Police's Nakagyo Station in Kyoto's Nakagyo Ward, on July 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)

TOKYO -- A woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) transferred 1.3 million yen (about $12,000) to the account of one of two doctors arrested on suspicion of giving her a lethal drug injection in November 2019, sources close to the investigation have told Mainichi Shimbun.

According to individuals connected to the investigation, Yuri Hayashi 51, a resident of Nakagyo Ward in the western Japan city of Kyoto, had been writing anonymously on Twitter about her hardship battling ALS since around April 2018. One of the suspects, 42-year-old Yoshikazu Okubo from Sendai's Izumi Ward in northeastern Japan, allegedly sent her a reply in late December 2018. They apparently continued to exchange tweets, and had conversations via direct message and email in the period immediately before the incident.

She repeatedly told Okubo, "I want to die even if it means paying money," and in November 2019 Okubo apparently told her the account number of the second accused, Naoki Yamamoto, 43, a resident of Tokyo's Minato Ward, and prompted her to send funds to it. She then suggested the price. In addition to a 500,000 yen transfer to the account on Nov. 21, 2019, a sum of 800,000 yen was sent two days after. The woman is believed to have used internet banking.

The woman had been considering making a request with an organization providing assisted suicide in Switzerland. Her research into the costs is likely to have informed the amount proposed to the doctors.

Okubo had put up several posts related to euthanasia on his blog and Twitter account. In May 2019, he wrote on his blog indicating his fixation with issues around remuneration for assisted dying, such as, "If you were told it was 5 million yen for euthanasia, you wouldn't be able to pay it," and, "It (assisted suicide) comes with risks, so it can't just be done as volunteer work."

Both men were arrested by the Kyoto Prefectural Police on July 23. They are accused of visiting Hayashi's apartment around 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2019, and giving the ALS patient a lethal drug dose at her own request. The doctors were not her attending physicians, nor did they know her personally.

(Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Tokyo Bureau)

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