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Ex-Tokyo Gov. Ishihara apologizes for tweet calling ALS 'karma disease'

A screenshot of former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's July 31 tweet apologizing about using a derogatory term which refers to a disease that is the result of bad deeds in one's previous existence to describe ALS in an earlier tweet.
A screenshot of former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's July 27 tweet which described ALS using a derogatory term is shown here.

TOKYO -- Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara apologized on his official Twitter account on July 31 for an earlier tweet that used a derogatory expression to describe amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in connection with the recent high-profile death of a woman with the disease.

    The 87-year-old former politician, who is also a prizewinning novelist, had described ALS using "gobyo," a Japanese term which means, "An intractable disease that is said to be a result of sinful deeds in one's former incarnation." His comment came in connection with the death of a female ALS patient who was allegedly given a lethal drug dose by two doctors upon her request to be euthanized.

    Ishihara said that he had misused the term and that he had no intention of discriminating against those with ALS.

    When giving an outline of the recent incident on July 27, Ishihara had tweeted, "A woman who was afflicted with the 'gobyo' of ALS and didn't have the freedom of movement to kill herself desired death with dignity and consulted with two doctors, who were indicted on suspicion of 'murder' for helping her by administering drugs to her."

    He went on to defend the accused doctors and said, "I am infuriated by the ignorance of prosecutors who do not even know of the virtue of the samurai warrior code of assisting others' quick deaths to save them from pain experienced in seppuku (ritual disembowelment). During the trials, I would like to appear in court to defend the doctors."

    The doctors have not in fact been indicted. The tweet was criticized in various comments, including "This is a discriminatory statement on the basis of eugenics," and "Don't you know the meaning of 'gobyo' even though you're a novelist?"

    Ishihara updated his posts for the first time in four days on July 31, tweeting, "My action of describing ALS as a 'gobyo' instead of an intractable disease was by no means based on prejudice, and I apologize for creating misunderstanding due to my unawareness despite my occupation as a writer."

    In referring to his previous tweet, he corrected his earlier used terms of "prosecutors" and "indicted" to "police" and "arrested," respectively, saying he had "criticized police who arrested the doctors on suspicion of 'murder' for their actions of aiding the death of a patient with the intractable disease of ALS." However, there was no explanation on his correction.

    Criticism regarding his apology subsequently surfaced, with one user stating "So you are apologizing for causing misunderstanding, but you're not going to apologize for writing the term 'gobyo'?"

    (Japanese original by Hiromi Makino, Integrated Digital News Center)

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