(From The Yomiuri Shimbun/Daily Yomiuri)
Angel of mercy/ Tottori doctor's hospice gives relief to terminally ill
Mikiko Miyakawa Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
As a doctor who takes care of terminally ill patients, Susumu Tokunaga deals with death on a daily basis.
"This morning, I attended to an old lady on her deathbed at her home," said Tokunaga, 56, director of Nonohana Clinic in Tottori. "People often ask me if I'm not overwhelmed facing death so frequently, but I've never felt that way."
Since the clinic opened at the end of November 2001, more than 160 people have spent their final days there. On average, patients last about 60 days at the hospice before succumbing to their illnesses, he said.
Tokunaga decided to become a doctor when he was in high school.
"In my second year at high school, it struck me that although no one can avoid death, dying must be a painful and lonely experience. Since then, I've wanted to support the terminally ill by standing by them and holding their hands," he said.
Following through with this decision, Tokunaga entered Kyoto University's medical department. As a college student, he became …