Three A-bomb survivors claiming for A-bomb disease certification lose the case; top court says “follow-up is not active treatment”

by Yo Kono, Staff Writer

The Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court ruled on lawsuits brought by three survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who requested the government recognize them as A-bomb disease sufferers. Chief justice Katsuya Uga turned down their appeal, expressing that follow-up observation for cataracts or chronic thyroiditis is not considered “required medical treatment,” one of the conditions needed to be certified as A-bomb disease. The ruling confirms the plaintiffs’ loss in their legal battles.

The ruling states “there must be special circumstances that follow-up examinations are essential to cure the disease and that it is also part of aggressive medical treatment” for the applicants to meet the requirement. While many applications are rejected for reasons their visits are no more than regular medical observations, it left open the possibility that they could be recognized as A-bomb disease sufferers in the future depending on the progression of symptoms.

The Supreme Court’s decision over the definition of “in need of medical treatment” could have an impact on other similar cases currently pending in district and high courts.

The three plaintiffs are Toshiko Naito, 75, a resident of Asaminami Ward in Hiroshima City who experienced the bombing in Hiroshima, Tsutae Takai, 84, a resident of Midori Ward in Nagoya City, and a woman in her 80s who lives in Saga Prefecture, both were exposed to the bomb’s radiation in Nagasaki.

The national government rejected their applications because their hospital visits for cataracts or chronic thyroiditis are treated as periodic evaluations according to the doctor’s certificate. The survivors sued the health ministry from 2011 to 2016, demanding it revoke their decision.

In the ruling, it was pointed out that consultations by a doctor, blood tests or ultrasound examinations which three of them are receiving regularly “could not be said to be essential as part of active medical treatment,” judging that “they could not be recognized as in need of medical care.”

Hiroshima High Court and Nagoya High Court ruled in favor of Ms. Naito and Ms. Takai, respectively, recognizing them as atomic bomb disease sufferers. Meanwhile, the woman in Saga Prefecture lost the case in Fukuoka High Court.

This is the second Supreme Court ruling over the government’s decision which rejected the application for A-bomb disease certification, following “the Matsuya case” filed by a woman in Nagasaki City who was exposed to the bomb in the city and won against the government in 2000. The Health Service Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare commented, “We understand that our claim was accepted.” Meanwhile, Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, the plaintiffs and the legal team released a statement saying, “It is shameful that the Supreme Court turned their back on the relief of A-bomb survivors. We strongly protest their attitude.”


Atomic bomb disease certification system
Those certified as having an illness related to radiation exposure from the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki receive a special monthly allowance of 141,360 yen. The applicants need to meet the condition that they developed a “radiation-induced” disease, and that it “requires medical treatment” in order to be recognized as an atomic bomb disease sufferer.

(Originally published on February 26, 2020)