Hibakusha malady list grows by two

Kyodo News

A government panel said Monday it will add two diseases in certifying people with illnesses caused by radiation from the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in line with a series of court rulings.

Following the decision, the government plans to compile measures by the Aug. 6 and 9 anniversaries of the U.S. bombings to settle a series of suits by ailing hibakusha seeking certification and the benefits that go with it.

The panel of medical experts under the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry added liver dysfunction (chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis) and hypothyroidism to its list of diseases for recognizing hibakusha as suffering from radiation sickness.

People who are recognized as such by the panel, set up under the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, are eligible for special medical allowances of ¥137,000 per month.

As criteria for the screening, the ministry has since April 2008 referred to a list of five diseases as well as conditions, including that the applicant was exposed to radiation within 3.5 km of ground zero or approached ground zero within 100 hours of the bombing, to certify survivors as suffering from radiation sickness.

The list, which has included cancer, leukemia, cataracts, hyperparathyroidism and heart infarction, has been drawn heavy criticism and courts nationwide have recognized plaintiffs rejected by the government as suffering from radiation-induced illnesses.

The government decided not to appeal the two latest rulings by the Osaka and Tokyo high courts in May.

In a decision marking the 18th straight loss for the government at both district and high courts, the Tokyo High Court said May 28, “The (current) screening rules are inappropriate in certifying atomic bomb-related diseases.”

Following the ruling, a project team of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc recommended adding liver failure and underactive thyroid function.

After deciding not to appeal this ruling on June 9, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe expressed his willingness to review the criteria and give relief to the plaintiffs in a meeting with representatives of the nationwide suits.

Under the criteria that replaced the old certification formula last year, 2,969 applicants were newly certified as suffering from radiation sickness in fiscal 2008, roughly 23 times the total of 128 recognized in fiscal 2007.

About 300 hibakusha across Japan have filed collective lawsuits seeking certification at 17 district courts, and 13 district courts and four high courts had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs before the May 28 high court ruling.