July 1(Friday)

"No. 23 [Settlement] Hepatitis B Litigation: The Prime Minister's Apology, and the Way Forward"

 

Most Japanese people can probably recall participating in group vaccinations during their childhood. As a consequence of the long neglect of the Government to prevent the reuse of needles during these vaccinations, many people were infected with the hepatitis B virus. The Prime Minister met with such patients...

 

 

June 28: Meeting with plaintiffs' groups in the litigation over hepatitis B
<Ms. Mieko Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Taniguchi: The physical suffering and the suffering of discrimination and bias were hell.

 

Prime Minister: It truly breaks my heart.

 

<Mr. Shigeyasu Yamamoto, leader of the Hiroshima plaintiffs' group>
Mr. Yamamoto: Dreams do come true. The fact that I was able to meet with you today is proof of that.

 

Prime Minister: On behalf of the Government of Japan, I express my heartfelt apology to all victims and patients.[The Prime Minister walks to the front of the podium and bows deeply to the leaders of the plaintiffs' groups.]

 

   Because the Government long neglected to stop the reuse of needles
   during group vaccinations,
   many people were infected with the hepatitis B virus.
   Over 700 people nationwide have now filed suits against the Government in relation to this.

   Five years ago,
   the Supreme Court ruled for the first time
   that the Government was liable for this problem.
   On January 11 of this year,
   the Sapporo District Court proposed a settlement offer.
   Two weeks later...

 

<January 24, PM's Policy Speech>

Prime Minister: We will respond constructively to the findings (settlement offer) of the court in the litigation over hepatitis B and, with the understanding of the public, seek a settlement at an early date.

 

   At the outset of the current Diet session,
   the Prime Minister showed enthusiasm toward resolving this issue.
   Discussions have advanced toward reaching an agreement.

 

<June 28: Signing ceremony for the basic agreement>

   On June 28, following the signing ceremony for the basic agreement
   to reach a settlement with plaintiffs' groups,
   the Prime Minister met with and directly apologized
   to around 130 plaintiffs and other people.

 

Prime Minister: Moving forward, I promise that we will implement the basic agreement with integrity, including payouts for the settlement package and for the costs of health examinations.

 

<Ms. Kyoko Okada, leader of the Tokyo plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Okada: What we really want is to hear an apology from those who neglected the problem.

 

<Mr. Shigeyasu Yamamoto, leader of the Hiroshima plaintiffs' group>
Mr. Yamamoto: I have a request to make, although I understand that it is a difficult one. Through a top-down approach, I want you to instruct those below you to make hepatitis B a curable illness. I want you to commit to its treatment and research.

 

Prime Minister: I promise you that we will exert even greater effort to eliminate the (hepatitis B) virus and prevent its onset. We will put further effort into research for this.

 

<Ms. Tomomi Takahashi, leader of the Hokkaido plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Takahashi: Can we trust you, Prime Minister Kan?

 

Prime Minister: I will do everything in my power to ensure that specific compensation is provided.

   The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimates
   that about 400,000 people qualify for compensation,
   which is expected to total up to 3.2 trillion yen over the next 30 years.
   Securing the financial resources for compensation is also a significant challenge.

 

<Ms. Mieko Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Taniguchi: I ask that the Government make sure that any tax increases are not seen as the fault of hepatitis B patients (given the need to secure funds for compensation)!

 

   That same day, the Prime Minister received
   a calendar from "Orange Support,"
   a student group supporting the plaintiffs.
   The day the Prime Minister delivered his apology,
   June 28, is marked on the calendar.
   However, this doesn't mean that
   the suffering of each victim ended on June 28.

 

<Ms. Makiko Koike, co-leader of the Osaka plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Koike: [With her voice shaking, she says to the Prime Minister] Even after I die, my children will continue to be victimized. My daughter has placed her life at risk by postponing medication in order to have children. Please don't forget the depth of the damage this has caused. It has altered the lives of affected parents and children forever.

 

Prime Minister: Today's basic agreement is the starting line for a resolution to this issue. I believe this.

 

<The Prime Minister is joined by Ms. Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group, in front of the podium>

[The Prime Minister shakes hands with Ms. Taniguchi using both of his hands and bows deeply]
Ms. Taniguchi: We're counting on you. (Applause from the audience)

 



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