Striving to fill voids in Hiroshima, evidence of victims remains 76 years after atomic bombing—Prefectural Medical Association asks members for A-bomb medical records

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

Amid challenges in preservation of atomic bombing-related physicians records, including medical charts written soon after the bombing, the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association, located in Hiroshima’s Higashi Ward, sent a letter on August 4 to all its members requesting that they contact the association if they had any such materials in their possession. According to staff, the association has previously collected members’ personal notes related to their A-bombing experiences, but this is the first attempt by the association to confirm on a comprehensive basis the presence of such documents. By defining such records as valuable for conveying the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the hardships experienced by physicians and other medical workers amid the catastrophe, the association aims to seek ways to preserve the information for future generations.

After the U.S. military dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima 76 years ago, many physicians in Hiroshima Prefecture rushed to the city to provide aid, and some treated the wounded that had been brought to Hiroshima’s suburbs or rural areas in the prefecture. In the letter, the members were asked to notify the association if they had on hand any records from that time, such as medical charts, notes, photographs, or journals. Noting the importance of archiving such materials, the letter explains, “We hope you will share with us any materials you have cared for to this point as part of the historical record that should be passed down to future generations.”

The letter was sent to all the roughly 6,900 physician members of the association. Members include active physicians, physicians retired from private practice, and hospital physicians who once practiced at now-shuttered hospitals. The association decided to send the letter to all members without exception given the possibility that some physicians archived the materials on a personal basis.

If any materials are discovered, the association will confirm the intention of the members with regard to the materials, temporarily archive the materials or create copies, and investigate how to preserve the materials over the long-term.

When asked about this issue, Makoto Matsumura, chair of the association, said “To take over records conveying how health care workers dealt with the atomic bombing is an obligation of our association. With this perhaps our last opportunity, we wanted to work on the issue from the larger perspective of Hiroshima in its entirety.” Mr. Matsumura indicated the association would suggest centralized control of the materials, in consideration of the framework of the Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-exposed (HICARE), which is comprised of the medical association and other organizations such as Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, located in the city’s Minami Ward.

(Originally published on August 5, 2021)