By Barrier Free Japan with extracts from The Yomiuri Shimbun
January 24 2022
OSAKA – Last April, two brothers in their 50s were found dead in a house in Nishiyodogawa Ward, Osaka City. The younger brother (56 years old at the time) had a severe intellectual disability, and the elder brother (57 years old at the time) was the sole caregiver.
On April 14, the Osaka Prefectural Police’s Nishiyodogawa Police Station sent the brother to the prosecutor’s office on suspicion of murder, claiming that he attempted to commit suicide due to nursing fatigue. The incident occurred just as the full-scale support was about to begin, based on an SOS from the brother. Could the tragedy have been prevented?
“I gave up my brother’s life. I will follow in his footsteps. On a piece of paper, the size of a letterhead, left on a desk in a Japanese-style room on the second floor of a two-story wooden house, was written this message, along with words of pessimism about the future. The prefectural police believe that it was written by the elder brother, and the two were found dead side by side on a futon laid out in the same room.
The older brother had a transparent plastic bag over his head, and the younger brother’s face was covered with a towel. As a result of the autopsy, the cause of death was asphyxiation for both of them.
According to the Nishiyodogawa Ward Office and neighbors, their two parents had run a small pharmacy in this house since the brothers were young. Shortly after their father passed away in 1998, the older brother, who had been living away from home, returned to the family home and began living with his mother and brother.
When he was six years old, his younger brother was diagnosed with aphasia and also had a severe intellectual disability. He tended to stay at home, watching TV until late at night and living a life that reversed day and night.
Since their mother died more than seven years previously, his brother had been taking care of his younger brother by himself while receiving welfare benefits as it was difficult for him to work due to his care. In the neighborhood, the brother was often seen taking his brother for a walk.
The family did not receive any government support for care for a long time, but it is believed that the characteristics of the younger brother had an impact.
The younger brother did not use facilities or nursing care services, and just before he passed away, he told his brother, “Please don’t put me in a facility. His brother also refused support, saying that he would have to take care of him.
However, the brother began to tell the ward office staff in charge of public assistance that he was having a hard time taking care of himself and that he did not know how long he would last. Since 2018, she has received assistance with household chores, such as cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping, but she has not used services such as bathing assistance or short stays where she can leave her brother with a third party.
“My brother is tired,” he said. It was not until April 20 last year that the brother’s doctor contacted the Counseling and Support Center and started talking about bathing assistance.
On the night of April 24 last year, four days after their doctor contacted the Counseling and Support Center, an employee of the ward’s counseling and support center, who became suspicious that she could not contact her brother, called 110 and found him. The staff member had visited the house four days earlier and consulted with the brother about his care, saying that he wanted to use a bathing service. The two were believed to have died by noon on the same day.