Hepatitis B sufferers in Japan who are thought to have caught the disease from repeated use of needles during a vaccination programme have agreed to settle a dispute with the state. The state will need to shell out $39 billion as part of the agreement.
The decision will bring to an end a series of lawsuits across the country but it will pose the government with a headache as it looks for ways to raise the 3.2 trillion yen, with the possibility it may have to to raise taxes.
Tokyo had already expressed a readiness to accept the proposal, bringing to an end the country's largest medical dispute that will see it compensate about 430,000 people infected with the potentially fatal disease during decades ago.
"This is a tough decision, but we decided to accept (the proposal) to end this issue swiftly," the plaintiffs said in a statement issued Saturday.
"We demand that the government learn from this lessen and do the best to solve this problem as soon as possible," said one of the plaintiffs, Mieko Taniguchi, adding that the court proposal was not enough to rescue everyone.
Earlier this month, the Sapporo District Court proposed that the government pay 12.5-36 million yen in damages to each hepatitis B patient depending on their health condition.
The court has also proposed that the government pay 500,000 yen each to virus carriers who do not show any symptoms yet.
Total 630 people have filed damages suits with 10 district courts across Japan, arguing that the government should be held responsible for the mass infections as it failed to take necessary measures.