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2014年8月28日 (木)

社説:避難者自殺判決 東電の責任厳しく指摘

August 27, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Ruling on nuclear evacuee suicide holds TEPCO accountable
社説:避難者自殺判決 東電の責任厳しく指摘

The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay some 49 million yen in damages to the family of a 58-year-old woman who killed herself after she was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, dealing a hard blow to the utility.

It is not uncommon for accountability for suicide to be contested in the courts. Corporations have faced tough rulings in recent years for suicides induced by overwork. And it is amid such a climate that a Fukushima court tackled head-on and recognized a causal link between the stress of evacuation and suicide.

While the ruling applies to an individual case, it is bound to have a significant impact on other lawsuits and settlement talks regarding the nuclear disaster.

The deceased woman, who had been evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Kawamata, was at her home for a temporary visit in July 2011 when she killed herself. Her husband and three children brought the damages suit against TEPCO.

The nuclear disaster had forced the woman to leave the town where she'd grown up and live in evacuation facilities. She had to live away from her children, and became unemployed when the chicken farm where she'd worked was shut down. The close ties she had with her neighbors, with whom she used to share vegetables, was also lost. The court ruled that these stressors, which arose in quick succession in a short period of time, had caused the woman's depressive state.

The woman had suffered from insomnia and had been receiving outpatient treatment for psychosomatic disorder since before the disaster. TEPCO cited this fact as an indication of "the individual's fragility," denying responsibility for the woman's suicide.

The court, taking the woman's pre-existing condition into consideration, recognized that 80 percent of her suicide was due to stress caused by the nuclear disaster and calculated the compensation amount accordingly.

The presiding judge also said that TEPCO should have been able to foresee that if radioactive materials spread across a wide area, residents would be forced to evacuate, and that such displaced residents could develop depression or commit suicide from the stress.

Among evacuees, there are those who are susceptible to stress and those who are less so. It is unacceptable to write victims off as "fragile." Understandably, the ruling has shown consideration for those who are especially vulnerable in disasters.

An alternative to lawsuits in resolving conflicts surrounding the nuclear disaster is the dispute resolution process through the government's Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center.

The center pursues TEPCO's accountability not only for suicides but various other cases.

There is a wide range of thinking on what constitutes the appropriate range of compensation for the claims of damages raised by residents.

Regardless, TEPCO, having caused the disaster, must listen carefully to the voices of disaster victims and compensate amounts comparable to the damage that has been done.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the number of those who have died from suicide and other causes related to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has surpassed 1,670 -- greater than the number of those in the prefecture who died as a direct result of the quake and tsunami. We need further debate on how the families of those people should be compensated.

毎日新聞 2014年08月27日 02時32分


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