CJD victims stage sit-in calling for early compensation

Plaintiffs, their lawyers and supporters in the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) lawsuits staged a three-day sit-in from November 5 in front of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, calling on the government to apologize and settle the case as early as possible.

On November 6, about 500 participants encircled the ministry building with "human chains," expressing their anger and sorrow about their loved ones' unreasonable deaths.

CJD patients contracted the disease as a result of an implant of contaminated dura mater during brain surgery which was imported from a German manufacturer with the Health and Welfare Ministry's approval. The victims and their families filed a suit in 1996 at the Otsu District Court in Shiga prefecture calling for compensation from the government and the German manufacturer of the dura mater.

The district court last March recommended an out-of-court settlement, but the government refused to accept responsibility.

The lawsuits filed at the Otsu and Tokyo District Courts have involved 25 patients, and 22 of them have already died.

Tani San'ichi, Otsu Lawsuit Plaintiffs Group head, took part in the sit-in with a picture of his dead wife. He said, "The victims can't voice their anger, because all of them are either dead or vegetables. For my dead wife, I will continue to fight."

Ozawa Kazuaki, Japanese Communist Party House of Representatives member, encouraged the participants, saying, "The government failed to take steps to prevent the tragedy, even though it was aware of the danger for ten years. Such an irresponsible attitude of the government has caused such tragedies as CJD, HIV, and the mad cow disease. We will struggle together to change the government policy."

In the Diet, Inoue Miyo of the JCP in the House of Councilors Health, Labor and Welfare Committee meeting on November 6 blamed the government for causing the CJD, quoting a former university professor in a TV program as saying that in 1973 the Health and Welfare Ministry approved the import of the dura mater in question without requiring necessary tests or safety precautions.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Sakaguchi Chikara promised to investigate into the matter. (end)