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Only 3,000 names of sterilization surgery recipients confirmed by ministry probe

The Central Government Building No. 5 in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward that houses the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is seen in this file photo taken on Oct. 14, 2015. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Only around 3,000 out of some 25,000 people who are said to have received sterilization operations under the eugenics protection law (1948-1996) were identified by their names as a result of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, people familiar with the finding have told the Mainichi Shimbun.

The ministry conducted the probe in April, asking prefectural governments and municipalities with public health centers if they have records about eugenics operations. Besides the 3,000 or so people whose names were confirmed, many people possibly underwent such surgeries because their names were left in applications for the procedures and records of examining such applications.

The sterilization operations, which were often conducted on people deemed to have mental or physical disabilities or illnesses, are now considered to be inhumane and victims across the nation are suing the government for redress.

A separate survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun of all 47 prefectural governments in Japan from January through March found that 25 responding prefectures had surgery-related records of at least 3,596 people. In responding to the questionnaire, some local governments apparently factored in documents that were not really surgery records or double-counted some people whose names appear in different papers.

The health ministry is trying to check records kept by medical and welfare institutions through municipal governments, and such papers may help identify far more people than confirmed now.

In a bid to support victims of sterilization operations, two groups of lawmakers are discussing to come up with legal measures. Both of the groups -- a working team of the ruling coalition and a suprapartisan gathering of Diet members -- are considering supporting victims regardless of the presence of documentation about their surgeries. As more than 80 percent of the victims appear to have no records at this time, a focal point for the redress system is how to recognize their damage.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada and Ryosuke Abe, Medical Welfare News Department)

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