Bioethics News

19 intellectually disabled murdered in Japan

Prayers at the care centre   

Japan’s biggest mass murder since World War II has provoked a debate over the notions of “mercy killing” and eugenics. Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old with a history of mental instability, broke into a home for the disabled in Sagamihara, a city near Tokyo on July 26. He stabbed 19 residents to death and seriously wounded 25 others. He then turned himself into the police. “I did it,” he told police. “It is better that disabled people disappear,” 

In February Uematsu had been committed involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital after writing a letter to the Japanese parliament outlining a plan for killing the disabled. “I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanised, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities,” the letter said. The deaths would promote world peace, benefit the global economy and prevent World War III. He wrote that he would kill 470 patients in two facilities during a night shift.

However after short time Uematsu was discharged as psychiatrists believed that he was not dangerous.

On Twitter and in major newspapers the murders were condemned as a hate crime and as a revival of Nazi ideology. “With this, we can also catch a glimpse of the philosophy of eugenics, which sought to eliminate the ‘inferior presence’ of the disabled,” the Tokyo Shimbun said in an editorial. The National Association for People with Intellectual Disabilities issued a statement stressing the unique value of the victims’ lives, no matter how disabled they were:

“The suspect in this incident has made statements to the effect that he denies respect for the lives of disabled people.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.