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High court recognizes 2 women as sufferers of A-bomb-related diseases

In this file photo taken June 29, 2012, Tsutae Takai, foreground, and her sister Hatsue Yamada, are seen in Nagoya's Nakamura Ward. (Mainichi)

NAGOYA -- The high court here overturned a lower court ruling and recognized two women as sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases, granting their demand that the Japanese government nullify its decision not to recognize them as such.

    The decision on March 7 by the Nagoya High Court reversed the Nagoya District Court's ruling that dismissed their claims. The two plaintiffs were 85-year-old Hatsue Yamada and her younger sister Tsutae Takai, 82, who were exposed to radiation in Nagasaki from the U.S. atomic bombing of the city in August 1945. Yamada has lung and breast cancer while Takai has chronic thyroiditis.

    Yamada and Takai had applied for recognition as sufferers of A-bomb-related illnesses in 2009 and 2010, respectively, but the government turned down their applications under the new certification criteria.

    In the lower court ruling, the women's illnesses were recognized as being caused by exposure to radiation, but it was decided that "the situation requires further observation and not active treatment." This meant the women did not meet the certification criteria of "requiring medical treatment," the ruling said. However, the high court ruled that a situation requiring further observation can be recognized as one needing medical intervention.

    According to the high court's ruling, while Yamada's lung cancer was cured, it had been nine years since she underwent surgery for breast cancer when she made her application for certification of her illnesses in 2009 -- less than 10 years during which there was a possibility of the cancer coming back -- and thus she was in need of medical attention. Takai's thyroiditis was also deemed to have needed further observation at the point she applied for recognition in 2010 and therefore her need for treatment could not be denied, the ruling said.

    "I take (the ruling) as clearly recognizing my situation," Takai said at a press conference following the ruling. Meanwhile, a representative from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's atomic bombing survivor coverage policy office commented, "We will carefully examine the content of the court decision and decide how to handle the case after consulting with related government ministries and agencies."

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