Japan's deputy prime minister has been forced to apologise after suggesting that old people should "hurry up and die" to save the state the cost of providing them with medical care.
Taro Aso, 72, who was speaking at a meeting of the National Council on Social Security Reforms, described patients with serious illnesses as "tube persons" and said they should be "allowed to die quickly" if they wanted to. "Heaven forbid I should be kept alive if I want to die," he said. "You cannot sleep well when you think it's all paid by the government. This won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die."
Mr Aso later issued a statement retracting some of his remarks and admitting that they had been "inappropriate".
Mr Aso became renowned for his asides during a brief stint as prime minister in 2009. He told university students that young people should not get married because they were too poor and therefore not worthy of respect from a life partner.
That insight was followed by the declaration that followers of the world's religions should learn from Japan's work ethic. "To work is good. That is a completely different way of thinking to the Old Testament," Mr Aso said.
He also upset doctors by saying that many of them "lack common sense" - and on the same day offended parents at a kindergarten by telling them that they were often the ones that need to be disciplined, not their children.
The Daily Telegraph, London