Obviously it is the state and the prefecture that has most disturbingly hampered solving the issue of Minamata Disease. Even if all suffering people were certified as a patient, disorders and pains of victims caused by poisoning of methyl-mercury would remain the same. The government, however, still keeps adamant attitude in refusing certification for all sufferers.
A NEW POLICY, BUT IT DISCARDS SUFFERING PEOPLE
The Supreme Court gave judgment April 17 last year, which says ‘in a separate, concrete case a suffering person may be certified as a patient of the Minamata Disease, even if not found is combination of pertinent symptoms’. The court decision acknowledged two people, namely Ms Mizoguchi Chie and Mr. F (both deceased), who had had sensory disorders but had been rejected by the Kumamoto Prefecture their application for certification.
The decision of the highest court fundamentally overturned the state’s norm of 1977, by which applicants had been required to demonstrate a proof of combined symptoms in addition to disturbances of sensation, including visual field impairment.
In October last year a third party organization of the state, the Administrative Review Institution on Compensation for Health Damages caused by Industrial Hazards, turned down a decision of the Kumamoto Prefecture given to Mr. Shimoda Yoshio that had rejected his application for certification. Mr. Shimoda has a single symptom of sensory disturbance. The review judged that he deserves to be certified as a patient.
Mr. Shimoda was one of the second-generation plaintiffs to which the Kumamoto District Court issued a decision last March 31. He had withdrawn himself from the litigation after gaining the October judgment. Both of the judiciary and the administrative organ dismissed the decision of Kumamoto Prefecture to reverse the state’s certification criteria which had been observed as a golden rule by the government authorities.
Objective Proofs should be Open
The Ministry of Environment announced last March 7 new guidelines for certification procedure to three prefectures of Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Niigata as well as to City of Niigata. The criteria say an applicant can be certified as a patient of Minamata Disease if he suffers from a single symptom of sensory disorder.
The new rules do not in fact rectify the criteria of 1977. Under the new guidelines confirmation must be made first on: a period of eating much amount of tainted seafood with methyl-mercury, a cause substance, an eating habit and ways how to get seafood.
The next procedures include: (1) measurement of density of methyl-mercury in the applicant’s body, (2) a history as a resident to live in the area where the disease occurred, (3) a family history and (4) professional experiences in order to check a level of contamination. The authorities request as many as objective materials that may endorse the fact.
Burdens against Suffering People
The new set of rules indicates: if an applicant presents proofs to show contraction to the Minamata Disease, he/she will be granted with certification. In other words, the authority demands a suffering person to tell how much amount of polluted seafood he/she had eaten in his/her childhood. Few people could answer rightly.
One of the defense counsels, Mr. Yamaguchi Norihiro, said: ‘the state authority has obligation to test foodstuff in line with the Foodstuff Hygiene Act. But negligence was the fact. It is state’s responsibility how far seafood is affected with industrial hazards.’
The state has put its responsibility on the sick people, neglecting its duties. The new guidelines mean to discard patients. The government cannot escape its responsibility.
May 13, 2014