Lawyers are urging former leprosy patients in Japan to file for state compensation over decades of mistreatment before their right to make such claims expires at the month’s end.
The state offers redress to former Hansen’s disease patients if they file lawsuits against the state over its past quarantine policy, which has been ruled unconstitutional by a court.
Still, lawyers say many former patients remain hesitant, fearing their medical histories could become known.
Lawyers supporting the lawsuits have promised no private information will be leaked in the process, and have called on former patients to make their legal claims.
Compensation amounts range from ¥5 million to ¥14 million, depending on the length of time patients were kept in isolated sanatoriums.
Those who did not enter sanatoriums and families of former patients can also make claims, they said.
The lawyers said they have spoken with a number of former patients who had kept their medical histories secret until hearing of the redress mechanism via news reports. Some have already filed lawsuits.
The state established the redress mechanism after the Kumamoto District Court handed down a landmark ruling in 2001 calling the state’s segregation policy against leprosy patients unconstitutional.
A law that decreed patients must be quarantined to prevent the disease’s spread was abolished in April 1996.
As Japanese civil law sets a 20-year limit on the right to claim damages, the deadline for any final claims is the end of this month.