Documents have been found showing that review panels at three prefectural governments authorized the forced sterilization of people from the 1960s to the 1980s under the now-repealed Eugenic Protection Law without following proper procedure.

Panels were required to hold meetings on each case before deciding whether sterilization was needed for people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or hereditary disorders.

But the documents kept at these governments and archive offices found that review panels in at least three prefectures — Gifu, Mie and Fukuoka — did not hold these meetings before making decisions to sterilize eight people.

The Eugenic Protection Law, in force from 1948 to 1996, authorized the sterilization of people with a range of disabilities and disorders to prevent births of "inferior" offspring. Forced sterilization was allowed when a prefectural government panel approved it after receiving a recommendation from a doctor.

According to instructions given by the central government in 1953, discussions on whether to approve sterilization should be carried out "promptly," and simple document screening would "not be proper" in making such decisions.

For instance, in the case of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government's panel, the sterilization of four women between 20 and 39 was authorized in 1981 and 1982 through document screening. The panel cited the difficulty of meeting at an early date due to members' scheduling conflicts.

The panels were made up of bureaucrats, judges, prefectural politicians and senior officials of medical associations.

The health ministry said the central government is unaware of the details because the details on holding the meetings were left to the discretion of the governments concerned.