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Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005

Tainted-blood victims speak in court


Staff writer

Two women infected with the hepatitis C virus through tainted blood products told the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday how they suffer with the life-threatening disease.

The testimony by the two women marks the first time plaintiffs in the Tokyo suit have spoken in court since they filed a damages suit against the government and three drug makers in October 2002.

Similar suits filed by 71 hepatitis C sufferers are pending in district courts in Osaka, Fukuoka, Sendai and Nagoya.

In Tokyo, the 22 plaintiffs, many of whom are women who received blood coagulants during childbirth or surgery, are withholding their names, citing widespread societal prejudice against HCV sufferers.

A 37-year-old mother of two told the court she learned about her HCV infection in 2000, when she was pregnant with her second child.

Two years earlier, she was in a traffic accident and underwent surgery in which she was given HCV-tainted coagulant fibrinogen, distributed by Green Cross Corp., which is now Mitsubishi Pharma Corp.

At the hospital where she gave birth to her second child, staff refused to do her and her baby's laundry, the woman told the court, adding she was also told by a nurse to go to another hospital if she became pregnant again.

The plaintiff said the interferon treatment she took for HCV was so physically, mentally and financially draining that she gave up on it halfway through.

She told the court that every time she received an interferon shot, she suffered influenzalike symptoms, including fatigue, fever and pain in her joints -- all while having to take care of her two small children.

She testified that she spent a total of about 1.5 million yen on medical treatment, only to be told that her liver tests showed the treatment was not working.

The other plaintiff who spoke -- a 43-year-old mother of two -- testified that she was given tainted fibrinogen while giving birth to her first child and suffered so acutely from HCV afterward that she had to be hospitalized for months.

The woman's second child was born with HCV and then her husband died, officially from "karoshi" -- overwork -- she told the court.

She now supports her family by working as a caregiver for the elderly. She has not told her employer that she has HCV.

"For 19 years, I have agonized and searched in vain for an outlet for my pain, sadness and outrage," the woman said.



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