Government commission rejects expanded scope of A-bomb disease certification in final report

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s review commission for the A-bomb disease certification system submitted its final report on December 4. One of the central proposals of the report, in terms of myocardial infarction and other noncancerous diseases, involves setting more detailed certification criteria for the conditions in which the survivors were exposed to the atomic bombing. This, in effect, rejects the possibility that the current scope of the certification criteria be expanded. The Ministry will formulate concrete proposals by the end of the year for revising the current system.

With regard to the scope of certification, the final report states: “The majority of commission members have expressed the opinion that the certification system already covers diseases that are not scientifically proven to have been caused by radiation,” and did not support enlarging the current criteria.

For every disease that should be promptly certified under the guidelines for the system, the report also proposes that new certification criteria be instituted regarding the conditions in which the survivors were exposed to the bomb. “This will narrow the gap between the government certification and the judicial rulings [lost in succession by the national government],” the report states and requests that the new conditions not reduce the current scope of certification.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), which has called for scrapping the current system and replacing it with a new system, had opposed the commission’s draft report, issued at the previous meeting, and submitted counterproposals to the Ministry on November 26.

Some of these counterproposals were adopted in the final report, such as eliminating the need to clarify the relationship between radiation exposure and diseases (radiation-induced diseases) for major noncancerous conditions. Many of the counterproposals, however, are only indicated in the report as opinions.

After the commission met, Hidankyo and other organizations issued statements to protest the final report and expressed their concern once again, saying, “If the certification criteria are revised based on the final report, the certification scope for noncancerous diseases will be narrowed.”


A-bomb disease certification system
After losing a series of class action lawsuits over the certification of A-bomb diseases, the Japanese government introduced the current certification criteria in April 2008. Applicants suffering from any of seven designated diseases, including cancer, leukemia, myocardial infarction, and chronic hepatitis/hepatic cirrhosis, are promptly certified under such conditions as having been exposed to the atomic bombings within about 3.5 kilometers from the hypocenter; or entering within about two kilometers from the hypocenter within about 100 hours after the bombings. Other applicants are certified after their eligibility is examined by taking all relevant factors into consideration. Responding to Nihon Hidankyo’s complaint over the gap between the government certifications and the judicial rulings, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare established a special commission of experts in December 2010 to deliberate on this matter. The commission held 26 meetings and then submitted its final report.

(Originally published on December 5, 2013)