Care for A-bomb disease sufferers

The Osaka District Court on Aug. 2 ruled in favor of eight atomic bombing survivors whose application for official recognition as sufferers of diseases caused by atomic bomb radiation had been turned down by the state. They called for overturning the state’s decision not to recognize them as such sufferers. The court recognized them as suffering from atomic bomb diseases and nullified the state’s decision.

In a reasonable move, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the state will not appeal the ruling to a higher court after attending a ceremony on Aug. 9 to mark the Nagasaki atomic bombing 68 years before.

The government should widen the scope of medical assistance to atomic bomb survivors and hasten the work to ease the criteria to recognize such survivors as sufferers of atomic bomb diseases. The Aug. 2 ruling stopped short of calling for abolition of the criteria for revision.

The current criteria were introduced in 2008 after atomic bombing survivors won in a series of lawsuits in and after 2003 in which they called for official recognition of them as atomic bomb sickness sufferers.

If the government officially recognizes survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings as suffering from certain types of diseases caused by radiation from the atomic bombs, they each will receive about ¥137,000 a month as a special medical treatment allowance. The earlier criteria were so strict that reportedly only about 1 percent of the nation’s atomic bombing survivors received official recognition as atomic bomb disease sufferers.

Under the current criteria, if atomic bombing survivors meet the following conditions and suffer from any of seven diseases including cancer, leukemia, myocardial infarction (traceable to radiation), an overactive parathyroid and a malfunctioning thyroid (traceable to radiation), they are officially recognized as sufferers of atomic bomb diseases.

The conditions are: having been exposed to atomic bomb radiation at a spot within about 3.5 km of ground zero, having entered an area within about 2 km of ground zero within about 100 hours of the atomic bombing or having stayed for a week or longer in an area within about 2 km of ground zero during a period of about 100 hours to about two weeks after the atomic bombing.

Although the current criteria had been eased from the former criteria, so far only about 6,400 atomic bombing survivors have been officially recognized as atomic bomb illness sufferers. They account for only about 3 percent of some 201,800 survivors as of the end of March 2013.

The government should flexibly handle applications for official recognition by taking into consideration the conditions and circumstances of applicants. It also should consider whether it is rational to provide the same amount of a special medical treatment allowance irrespective of the severity of diseases.

The government must quickly work out a new, reasonable recognition and relief system. Not much time is left because the average age of atomic bombing survivors is 78.