|Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks at a news conference in Tokyo Dec. 27, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Japan's finance minister said the elderly should "hurry up and die" to save the government medical costs.
Taro Aso, 72, made the controversial comments Monday at a National Council on Social Security Reforms meeting in a country where the population is living longer and fertility rates are low amid a deflated economy.
"Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. You cannot sleep well when you think it's all being paid for by the government.
"This won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die," Aso said, according to reports.
Aso also reportedly referred to patients not capable of eating on their own as "tube persons."
He later apologized and told reporters he was referring to his own personal wishes.
"I said what I personally believe, not what the end-of-life medical care system should be," he told reporters, according to AFP. "It is important that you can spend the final days of your life peacefully."
The deputy prime minister said he doesn't want to live if he requires ventilation and claimed he has documentation citing his wishes.
Japan has the oldest population and the highest life expectancy in the world.
By 2040, half of Japan's population is expected to be 54 and over.
Aso, a former prime minister, has a history of making offensive remarks in public.
In 2001, he said he wanted Japan to become a country where "the richest Jews would want to live."