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Hokkaido man third person to seek damages over forced eugenic sterilization surgery

SAPPORO -- A Hokkaido man in his 70s is set to file a lawsuit against the central government with the Sapporo District Court over his forced sterilization under the Eugenic Protection Law (1948-1996), sources have disclosed.

According to the man's lawyer, they have been consulted by several other men and women about filing lawsuits over the law that allowed prefectural governments to forcibly sterilize individuals with disabilities or illnesses, and a class-action suit may be on the horizon. The man is the third to move to seek compensation from the state, following a woman in her 60s who filed in the Sendai District Court at the end of January, and another woman in her 70s who has decided to file in the same court.

Sources said that the man underwent sterilization surgery at about age 20, after taking a psychiatric exam.

"I consented at the time, but it was not a situation where I could have refused," he was quoted as saying. The documents concerning the decision by the prefectural eugenics protection review panel and the surgery will now be collected.

Meanwhile, a Miyagi Prefecture woman in her 70s who had previously given up on filing for damages due to the lack of ledger recording sterilization surgeries in the prefecture and other complications has also decided to file for compensation in the Sendai District Court, after the prefectural government announced redress policies. The Hokkaido government's handling of the man's case will attract attention in the event the record of his surgery cannot be confirmed.

According to the former Ministry of Health and Welfare's annual sanitation report and other sources, of the 16,475 forced sterilizations performed all over Japan after 1949 for which records still exist, Hokkaido had the highest number of cases at 2,593.

The prefectural government announced on Feb. 19 that it had found the documents relating to 1,210 people reviewed by the local examination board from fiscal 1962 to 1973. Of those, 1,129 cases were approved for sterilization, two people were rejected. The youngest person to be approved for the forced surgery was an 11-year-old girl.

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