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Let’s discuss the recent ruling on dementia

This week’s featured article

SHUSUKE MURAI, THE JAPAN TIMES

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the liability of the family of a 91-year-old man with dementia who was killed by a train after wandering onto railway tracks.

The precedent-setting decision is of great significance in a graying society in which the number of dementia patients is projected to increase significantly.

The “groundbreaking” ruling thoroughly favored the family of the dementia patient, said lawyer Teruhiko Asaoka, who represented the family.

“Families of elderly people have been watching this ruling … as if it were deeply related to their own nursing care,” he said. “The ruling will truly be a relief for those families.”

According to the ruling, the man, who suffered from advanced dementia, was killed by a JR Tokai train in 2007 after he wandered onto the tracks. Although he was under the care of his wife and the wife of his older son who lived nearby, the man left their home while his wife was napping.

JR Tokai sued the wife and her older son for ¥7.2 million in 2010, claiming that they had failed to fulfill their obligations to monitor the man’s behavior. The Nagoya District Court ruled the family liable in 2013 and ordered both the wife and son to pay the full amount demanded by JR Tokai. But the Nagoya High Court rejected the son’s liability in 2014 and ordered the wife to pay half the amount.

According to the transport ministry, there were 758 cases of train accidents and 287 related deaths in fiscal 2014. Among them, 28 cases involved dementia patients, 22 of whom were killed.

Tuesday’s ruling may impact elderly care in the country, making home care of dementia patients a more viable option for families. The number of such patients is expected to rise amid a shortage of nursing care workers.

The health ministry estimates the number of dementia patients in the nation will reach 7 million by 2025, when nearly 1 in 5 people will be 65 years or older.

First published in The Japan Times on March 2.

Warm up

One-minute chat about family.

Game

Collect words related to trains, e.g., station, ticket, etc.

New words

1) liability: the state of being responsible for something; e.g., “The contract exempted the company from liability for any injuries.”

2) dementia: loss of intellectual capacity caused by brain disease; e.g., “My grandmother has dementia.”

3) viable: capable of being effective; e.g., “The plan sounds viable.”

Guess the headline

Japan’s Supreme Court dismisses l_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ of family in death of man with d_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) Why did JR Tokai sue the family of the dementia patient killed in the train accident?

2) How many people with dementia were involved in train accidents in fiscal 2014?

3) What prediction does the health ministry have about how Japanese society will look in 2025?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Would you prefer to be cared for at home when you are elderly?

2) Do you think the Supreme Court’s decision was a good one?

3) What do you think Japan needs to do to adjust as its society rapidly ages?

Reference

日本の少子高齢化は止まるところを知りません。そして、高齢化に伴い痴呆症による要介護者の数も急増していることは言うまでもありません。介護にまつわるニュースや議論は日々あちこちで取り上げられていますが、何が正解なのかはおそらく誰にもわからないのでしょう。

今回のニュースも各裁判所が出した判決が全く異なるものであったことから大きな注目を集めました。

家族を失った悲しみに加え、賠償を請求され一瞬目を離した瞬間を介護不十分と責められることは何とも苦しい事でしょう。

事故に合うご本人にも事故の予測や自覚がないまま起きてしまう悲劇を繰り返さないために、社会全体で連携を取っていくことが求められます。

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