Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poisoning itself

The government decides to absorb a public relations disaster rather than show magnanimity...and the Masuzoe resignation clock starts ticking.

Japan hepatitis patients reject govt aid plan

By Chisa Fujioka - TOKYO, Dec 20 - Japanese hepatitis patients on Thursday rejected a government compensation proposal in a high-profile scandal over tainted blood, a move that could further erode Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's falling support rate.

Media have presented the emotive scandal, in which patients were infected with tainted blood products years ago, as a test for Fukuda, who already faces voter anger over mishandled pension records and a bribery scandal involving a former top defence official.

At least 10,000 people are estimated to have contracted hepatitis C from tainted products. Most of the cases have been linked to the coagulant fibrinogen, used to stop haemorrhaging during childbirth or surgery and sold in Japan even after it was withdrawn in the United States in 1977.

A group of patients had sued the government and drug makers seeking compensation but rejected a settlement proposal by a regional court last week, saying it would only provide aid to a limited number of patients.

They called on Fukuda to go beyond the court proposal and provide compensation under equal conditions to all those who contracted hepatitis from tainted blood products. The patients had also repeatedly asked for a meeting with him but were turned down.

"As long as the government continues to draw a line for lives, we cannot go on with settlement talks," Tomoko Kuwata, one of the plaintiffs, told reporters.

"Why were our fair demands not accepted? It makes me sad," she said, with tears in her eyes.

Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, while bowing in apology for the scandal before flashing cameras, said the government could not compensate patients beyond the court proposal.

The government's plan offers to pay money directly to around 700 patients, while setting up a common fund for 300 others, in a deal worth a total of around 17 billion yen ($150 million), Kyodo news agency said.

"We cannot have an settlement that goes against the settlement proposal by the Osaka High Court," Masuzoe told a news conference...
And why the hell not go against the settlement proposal of the Osaka High Court? Exactly what point in the recent past did the court system of Japan suddenly acquired the ability to protect the weak and restrain the powerful?

In the system of government we have here, if a politician does not care or does not threaten to take a flamethrower to the facilities, nothing is resolved, no one is saved.

With a single bow and an abject apology, Masuzoe becomes a hated puppet figure...and the government sinks to 1998-levels of impotence and indirection.

Of what possible benefit was the government's hewing to the court settlement's pitiful terms? To save just a little money? As if the government had any political capital to burn in order to hold the line on spending.

In terms of tactics, this was the second worst option imaginable. Even a child knows to never, ever, ever come back to a negotiating table with exactly the same offer as the one that was rejected earlier.

Later - OK, the numbers have come out on the television reports. T'is not as bad as it could have been. The government is willing to cough up a serious clot of cash for the special treatments the plaintiffs need--but refuses to take responsibility for any infections other than those that occurred between August 1985 and June 1988.

In comments, Okumura Jun is correct--both sides are stubbornly clinging to principles they possibly need to jettison.

We will have to see how the morning shows handle the stone heads on both sides.

1 comment:

Jun Okumura said...

Even a child knows to never, ever, ever come back to a negotiating table with exactly the same offer as the one that was rejected earlier.

In fact, the government alomst quadrupled the settlement offer to the 30 Per Cent. It is standing on principle, while ponying up the money. The plaintiffs are also standing on their own principle, which is likewise understandable, given all the water that has passed under the bridge.

I think that the latest offer will go a great way to limit the political fallout.