Statement by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
January 11, 2008
The Special Measures Law concerning the Payment of Benefits to Relieve the Victims of Hepatitis C Infected through Specified Fibrinogen Concentrates and Specified Coagulation Factor XI Concentrates
was enacted as of today.
The victims of the contraction caused by these blood products and bereaved families have suffered hardship beyond words, both mentally and physically, over a period of years. I must forthrightly acknowledge the responsibility of the government for allowing the occurrence of ruinous damage to the contraction victims and failing to prevent the spread of such damage. I apologize from my heart to each one of the contraction victims and bereaved families.
It has been my sincere wish to resolve this issue as soon as possible. I have been earnestly responding to the settlement talks arranged at the Osaka High Court. I have taken into account judicial decisions in the lawsuits related to hepatitis C contraction, which had met with rulings of different content at different district courts. That pointed to limitations under the current legal system in view of responding to the call for uniform compensation for the victims of contraction from these blood products. I have thus come to decide on lawmaker-initiated legislation to facilitate a comprehensive settlement of the issue.
In order to ensure the earliest possible compensation, vigorous discussions were held between the ruling parties and the group of lawyers representing the victims, rapid legislation work was advanced, and swift responses across political factions were sought at the Diet. All has led to today's enactment of the legislation, allowing for the settlement of the long-standing lawsuit related to hepatitis C contraction. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for this achievement.
The victims of the contraction have been calling on the government for the enhancement of its countermeasures for hepatitis. Their dedicated actions have been a driving force for the government and the ruling parties to promote earnest discussions for hepatitis countermeasures.
As a result, the government has expanded the program for free-of-charge hepatitis virus tests and plans to implement a new set of comprehensive measures for the disease, including medical subsidies for interferon treatment totaling 180 billion yen for a span of seven years from the next fiscal year in a joint commitment by the central and local governments. It is my sincere hope that these efforts will afford early detection of hepatitis symptoms and advance early treatment for all those in need.
Furthermore, reflecting upon what caused the incident and determined to never allow disease contraction through biomedical products to happen again, I renew my recognition for the preciousness of life and strive for the review of therapeutic goods administration to avoid health damage caused by biomedical products.
Once again, I would like to apologize for the long hardship suffered by each one of the contraction victims. I hereby commit myself to exerting my best and utmost efforts to avoid any recurrence of such an incident.