Editorials

Atomic bomb disease sufferers

The Sendai High Court on May 28 recognized two more people as sufferers of radiation illnesses caused by the August 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The Osaka High Court followed suit May 30 by recognizing nine others as sufferers of illnesses caused by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

Although both rulings denied state compensation to the plaintiffs, they represent the seventh and eighth straight defeat for the government in court battles over state certification of victims of atomic bomb-related illnesses. The government should respect the rulings and widen the scope for recognizing sufferers.

The ruling came after the government in April relaxed conditions for recognizing atomic bomb disease sufferers. In the past, the government used the probability-of-causation formula, which determined disease risk based on the estimated amount of radiation exposure — calculated by taking into account the distance a survivor was from ground zero plus other factors.

Under the new criteria, the government recognizes a person as an atomic bomb disease sufferer if certain conditions are met, including the existence of cancer, leukemia, parathyroid hyperfunction, cataracts, or myocardial infarction, and confirmation that one was exposed to radiation within about 3.5 km of ground zero or entered an area near ground zero within about 100 hours after the bombing. A certified atomic bomb disease sufferer receives medical treatment at public expense and a monthly medical allowance of about ¥137,000.

The significance of the two rulings — the first high court rulings on the issue of recognition — is that they grant recognition to people who were not recognized as atomic bomb disease sufferers even under the new criteria. The two plaintiffs in the Sendai lawsuit and five of the nine plaintiffs in the Osaka suit were not recognized as sufferers under the new criteria.

The Osaka ruling calls on the government to consider the circumstances of individual atomic bombing survivors in a “total and comprehensive manner.” The government should seek a new framework for recognizing atomic bomb disease sufferers.