'Hurry Up and Die' - Advice to the Elderly From Japan's Former Prime Minister

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(AP Photo)Group of Eight and Group of Five leaders participate in a group photo at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Leaders from front row left to right, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon. Back row left to right, China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"Hurry up and die" was the advice given to the elderly by a top Japanese official this week.

Taro Aso is the 72 year old deputy prime minister of Japan, and is said to be prone to making big gaffes.

Aso was participating at a government panel discussion on social security forms. However, as the conversations developed Aso put his foot in his mouth a number of times. First he referred to elderly people who are unable to feed themselves as "tube people."

However, things got worse, as after that he also said that the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to reduce the burden on the taxpayers and the country as a whole who had to pay out for their medical expenses in old age.

Aso, who is a former prime minister of Japan, also tried to win over doubters by giving his personal take on the issue. He stated that he had already written his will, and had given orders to his family to let him die faster by refusing him end of life care if offered.

He said, "Even if (doctors) said they could keep me alive, it would be unbearable. I would feel guilty, knowing that (treatment) was being paid for by the government," according to ABC News.

After a very public backlash at his words, he later claimed that his comments had been taken out of context, and that he was simply giving just his own personal wishes for the future and was not speaking about the elderly people of Japan.

Japan has the world's fastest aging population, according to statistics. At present nearly 25 percent of the country's population is aged 65 or over, but experts are predicting that that percentage could increase to 40 percent in as little as 50 years.

It is feared that the huge increase in the number of elderly people in the country will cripple the social security and pension schemes in place in Japan. The issue has already moved the government to increase taxes last year to help plan for the problem. The government has also agreed to double sales taxes to 10 percent over the next three years in an effort to contribute to the growing demand.

In the past Aso has said he wanted Japan to become the kind of country that the "richest Jews would want to live."

Speaking about the elderly in the past he has also said, "Why should I have to pay taxes for people who just sit around and do nothing but eat and drink?"

Here is a previous speech by Taro Aso on foreign policy: