The Supreme Court judged clearly on April 16 that those patients who had not been certified as a patient of the Minamata disease by the state and Kumamoto Prefecture authorities were eligible to be rightly designated. The key of court decision is that 'disorder of senses in the ends of four limbs is categorized as the Minamata disease'. The administrative authorities must immediately revise the erroneous criteria of the disease.
IMMEDIATELY REVISE STATE'S REQUIREMENTS FOR DISIGNATION
The Ministry of Environment held a press meeting on April 18, two days after the ruling with attendance of Vice Minister Minamikawa Hideki (then), who told 'the court decision does not negate the 1977 required diagnosis'. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court decision says about the state's norm to certify the disease that 'it is a reasonable criterion in a limited sense so as to judge and take swift, appropriate procedures in dealing with numerous applications'. In other words, 'the state's norm' is restrictive and the social institution is inappropriate to be revised.
Abolish Wrong Requirements
The court ruling defines the Minamata disease as nervous disorder triggered by taking through the mouth methyl mercury accumulated in seafood. It provides that 'it is necessary to make a comprehensive analysis, fully considering of not only a clinical judgment of diagnosis of individual patients but also personal records of exposure to substances that causes the illness and his/her daily life and various epidemiological data as well as results of surveys' when a person is examined for certification.
The Supreme Court ruling concludes, referring to approval of certification, 'the disease is certified through an act to confirm the established objective facts of the present time or past whether a patient should contract or not, and therefore, and judgment shall not be made by an arbitrary decision of administrative offices which deal with the disease and patients'.
The criteria given by the Supreme Court completely deny the basic framework insisted by the Ministry of Environment in terms of the definition and certification of the disease. Therefore, New Socialist Party strongly demands the Ministry to immediately abandon the 1977 requirements to set up new criteria.
Don't Discuss Behind Closed Door
The Ministry and the authority of Kumamoto Prefecture work on 'concrete measures for comprehensive examination on the basis of 1977 requirements', excluding patients and plaintiff groups of litigation. The ministry should stop plotting behind the closed door and will have to discuss openly on the basis of data found in the various surveys on the patients.
It is because the Supreme Court decision says 'judgment shall not be made by an arbitrary decision of administrative offices which deal with the disease and patients'. In other words, the ruling implies that the administrative offices are not allowed to draw an arbitrary line to certify patients.
Survey on All Patients
The Minamata disease was confirmed officially on May 11, 1956. It is over 57 years since then, but all the facts have not been fully investigated. It is because of negligence of the state and Kumamoto Prefecture in fact-finding efforts. Health tests are requested on all residents living around the Shiranui-kay Bay.
Another necessary survey is to collect health data of inhabitants in the broader areas; it is indispensable so that approval of disease on the basis of the Public Health Act may be made right in the medical and social contexts. One more point to add is participation of a third person in order to assure fairness.
September 3, 2013