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Japan premier apologizes to hepatitis C patients over tainted blood

Japan premier apologizes to hepatitis C patients over tainted blood

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda apologized to four people who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood products and promised Tuesday to enact legislation to compensate them.
Fukuda met the hepatitis C sufferers _ among hundreds seeking damages from the government and pharmaceutical companies in the blood products scandal _ at a meeting in his office, part of which was broadcast on national TV.
"I apologize for the years of indescribable suffering you have gone through," said the prime minister, who has struggled to regain public support following a series of scandals. "The only way to respond to your wishes is to enact legislation, and I'll do my utmost to achieve that goal."
Fukuda's ruling bloc proposed a plan Sunday to submit legislation early next month to provide aid to about 1,000 hepatitis C patients. The patients have already rejected a government compensation plan according to a court-proposed settlement.
Michiko Yamaguchi, a patient representing the plaintiffs, welcomed Fukuda's apology and expressed hope for "a complete settlement."
About 200 patients have filed lawsuits in five courts across Japan, demanding compensation from the government and drug makers Nihon Pharmaceutical Co., Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. _ now called Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma _ and its subsidiary Benesis Corp. The remaining patients were reportedly planning to file suits.
The plaintiffs say they contracted hepatitis C, mainly in the 1980s, from defective blood-clotting agents, which the government and the pharmaceuticals kept using despite knowledge of their potential contamination.
Though some 10,000 people may have been infected by hepatitis C through the tainted products, the aid is expected to cover only the lawsuit participants. An estimated 2 million Japanese are believed to have contracted the disease.
Hepatitis C is a chronic, blood-borne virus that can cause liver ailments, including cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure. It is treatable, but those who have the disease are often unaware of their infection.


Updated : 2021-05-13 08:05 GMT+08:00