Hiroshima – The government is likely to appeal a local court ruling that would extend state health care benefits to those beyond the currently recognized zone of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, sources close to the matter said Monday.
The government is currently in final talks with the Hiroshima Prefectural Government and the municipal government ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for an appeal, the sources said.
Although the local governments entrusted with the administrative duty of screening applicants for A-bomb health care aid were sued in the trial, the state is also participating in the legal battle and is empowered to appeal the ruling because it designed the health care policy.
But it remains uncertain whether such an appeal to the July 29 ruling by the Hiroshima District Court will be pursued, as both the prefectural and city governments are reluctant to do so, the sources said.
Some lawmakers in the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have also called for some relief for atomic bomb survivors who are not currently entitled to state health benefits, the sources added.
The Hiroshima court ruled in favor of a suit filed by 84 plaintiffs in their 70s to 90s, saying they should receive the same health care benefits as is provided for survivors who were in the zone where the state has recognized radioactively contaminated “black rain” fell.
It was the first court decision regarding the boundary of the area affected by radioactive rain and subsequent health problems among survivors.
The court said that the plaintiffs had developed diseases specific to atomic bomb survivors due to the effect of the black rain.
The designated area lies northwest of the hypocenter of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945 and measures about 19 kilometers in length and 11 km in width.
People who were recognized as being in the affected area at the time of the bombing are eligible to receive periodic health checkups free of charge. Among them, those who develop illnesses believed to be caused by radiation effects can receive free health care services in principle.
The 84 plaintiffs, including deceased individuals represented by family members, developed illnesses as such cancer and cataracts after they were exposed to black rain containing radioactive materials outside of the designated area, and consumed contaminated food and water.
They had applied to the city and prefectural governments of Hiroshima for health care benefits for atomic bomb survivors between 2015 and 2018, but their applications for atomic bomb survivors’ certificates were turned down.
The plaintiffs sued the Hiroshima city and prefectural governments from 2015, seeking nullification of the decisions.
The local governments had insisted there was no scientific evidence that radioactive rain fell on areas outside the designated zone or that the plaintiffs’ health problems were caused by their exposure to radiation.