Last year in April, the Osaka High Court reversed a lower court ruling in 2010 that Kumamoto Prefectural Government ought to recognize the woman—a Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, native who now lives in Osaka—as a victim of Minamata disease. The 87-year-old woman appealed her case to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, her attorney submitted documents alleging that the doctor whom the ministry asked to appear as expert witness in 2011 affirms that complainant indeed has Minamata disease.
The doctor said to have been approached first by the Environment Ministry was 80-year-old Takeshi Sato, head of the Kohnodai Hospital with the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture. Plaintiff’s documents showed that Sato carried out medical checkups for Minamata disease in the Kanto region in the 1970s. In June 2011, when he was asked to be an expert medical witness, case study records found that the woman in fact had Minamata disease. However, officials asked Sato to testify to the effect that Kumamoto Prefecture’s “decision was reasonable” because “it would be troublesome if the Kumamoto Prefectural Certification Council for Minamata Disease’s judgment was ruled incorrect.”
Sato did not accede to the request; it was a similar reply when he met the officials at the ministry in September 2011. The officials never contacted him again, and his findings, naturally, were not submitted to the Osaka High Court. When asked by the media about this latest development, the environment ministry only said, “There is no evidence that we made the request. We cannot comment because the case is before the court.” The next hearing is set for March 15.