« 厚労省分割―またしても政権の迷走 | トップページ | 改正薬事法施行 ネット販売の秩序ある拡大を »

2009年5月30日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 29(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2009)
EDITORIAL: A-bomb disease ruling

To this day, the government has refused to acknowledge that it is wrong despite a succession of court rulings against its policy concerning official recognition of atomic bomb-related diseases. Is this an appropriate way for the government of a country ruled by law to respond to group lawsuits filed by people still suffering from the effects of the World War II bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The Tokyo High Court's ruling Thursday marked the 18th consecutive defeat for the government in legal battles over the issue. But Prime Minister Taro Aso, speaking in a session of the Upper House Budget Committee, only said, "We will consider our response, taking the series of judicial decisions into account."

Of the 306 plaintiffs, 68 have already died. The government should accept these court judgments and end the legal battles quickly by offering relief to all plaintiffs.

Under the system for state certification of illnesses caused by the nuclear bombings, survivors, or hibakusha, who have been recognized as suffering from cancer or other specified diseases because of exposure to atomic bomb radiation are entitled to medical treatment at public expense and a monthly health allowance of 137,000 yen.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decides whether a specific hibakusha should be recognized as an atomic bomb disease sufferer on the basis of opinions of an expert subcommittee of the ministry's certification panel.

Starting in spring 2003, groups of hibakusha whose applications for such recognition were rejected have filed lawsuits with 17 district courts around the country, seeking revocation of the decisions.

The certification standard at that time involved estimating the amount of radiation exposure by using such data as the distance between a survivor and ground zero and then calculating the probability that the survivor had developed the disease because of the exposure.

In April last year, the health ministry changed this formula, which had been criticized by the courts as "too mechanical."

But the new criteria cannot be described as based on an accurate understanding of the reality of the health damage suffered by hibakusha. The criteria effectively limit the scope of certification to five diseases, including cancer and leukemia.

Even after the new criteria were adopted in spring last year, court after court has recognized survivors with illnesses other than the five designated ones as atomic bomb disease sufferers. The plaintiffs demanded a further review of the criteria, but the government only promised to address the issue after the Tokyo High Court handed down its ruling.

The high court also acknowledged applicants rejected under the new criteria as sufferers of diseases caused by the nuclear attacks and declared the criteria inappropriate. The high court also said the government should consider liver disorders and deteriorating thyroid gland functions as illnesses that may have been caused by exposure to radiation from the atomic bombs. The plaintiffs demanded that these two illnesses be added to the list of diseases designated for the recognition system.

The government should now start reviewing the criteria as the court has ordered.

Even if these two illnesses are added to the list, many atomic bomb survivors will still fail to be certified.

They can seek certification based on a comprehensive assessment of their individual circumstances and conditions. But the subcommittee of the health ministry's certification panel includes many members who still support the old "mechanical" formula.

The health minister should replace half of the subcommittee members, as demanded by atomic bomb survivors' groups, and hasten the process of dealing with the certification applications from 7,800 survivors.

The atomic bomb survivors' support law points out that many victims of the nuclear bombings continue to suffer incurable damage and live in constant anxiety.

The law requires the government to take comprehensive measures to support the victims because damage caused by radiation from the atomic bombs is a special public health problem.

The government should take all possible relief measures for the victims in line with the spirit of the law.


« 厚労省分割―またしても政権の迷走 | トップページ | 改正薬事法施行 ネット販売の秩序ある拡大を »





« 厚労省分割―またしても政権の迷走 | トップページ | 改正薬事法施行 ネット販売の秩序ある拡大を »