B型肝炎訴訟 国と原告は早期和解を目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 14, 2011)
Quick hepatitis B settlement best for all
B型肝炎訴訟 国と原告は早期和解を目指せ(1月13日付・読売社説)

The Sapporo District Court has presented a proposal for a settlement between the state and people believed to have been infected with the hepatitis B virus through shared use of syringes in group vaccinations.

We think the proposal for the damages suit, filed with 10 district courts, gave fair consideration to the claims of both the state and the plaintiffs.

The government confirmed at a meeting of relevant ministers that it would work toward accepting the court proposal. The plaintiffs have mostly applauded the proposal. We urge both sides to reach an early settlement.

The biggest point of contention has been how the state should compensate hepatitis B carriers who do not show symptoms.

The plaintiffs have demanded the state pay compensation of 12 million yen to each asymptomatic carrier--equivalent to what a carrier of drug-induced hepatitis C received.

The numbers game

However, the state has resisted making asymptomatic hepatitis B carriers eligible for compensation. An estimated 440,000 such carriers are believed to have been infected through group vaccinations during childhood, and the incidence rate of hepatitis among hepatitis B carriers is as low as 10 percent to 20 percent.

The reconciliation proposal would make a wide range of people eligible for compensation, including these carriers. However, the proposal set the amount of the lump-sum compensation at 500,000 yen. We think this is realistic.

It is important that the state expand aid provided to these carriers so they can receive regular medical examinations in the future. The court's proposal also included such assistance.

The proposal suggested compensation ranging from 12.5 million yen to 36 million yen to people who developed hepatitis or even liver cancer. The amount would vary depending on their condition.
This proposed compensation, which is less than the amount given to hepatitis C patients, is considerably higher than the government had offered to pay.

The state estimates the total payout could cost up to 3.2 trillion yen over the next 30 years if all symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers are compensated.

Raise public awareness

Given the nation's dire fiscal straits, it will not be easy for the state to find this money. If the state accepts the court proposal, it will need to disclose more detailed estimates of these costs, and convincingly explain why it should pay this money.

The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with infected blood. It was only in the late 1980s when needles and the barrels of syringes used in vaccinations began to be disposed of after use. Anyone born before then could have been infected with the virus.

Many carriers remain unaware they have the virus. The government urgently needs to have more people undergo checks to learn if they have the virus, and to improve treatments so the virus does not progress to liver cancer or other serious ailments.

In another lawsuit involving hepatitis B patients, which was finalized by the Supreme Court, the court recognized that the state failed to take appropriate prevention measures up until 1988, even though it was aware of the risk of repeated use of syringes as long ago as 1948.

It is essential to verify why such appalling negligence in the nation's health care administration was left uncontested.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2011)
(2011年1月13日01時22分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-01-14 04:31 | 英字新聞

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