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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 14:17 GMT
Japan payout over tainted blood
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Lawyer Toshihiro Suzuki, representative for the plaintiffs, at a Tokyo news conference on 28 December 2007
Two hundred people have been fighting for compensation for years
Japanese lawmakers have passed a bill that will enable hundreds of people infected with hepatitis C by tainted blood products to claim compensation.

It is estimated that at least 10,000 people contracted the disease when they were given blood-clotting agents between the 1970s and early 1990s.

The long-running row over who should be compensated and how is thought to have damaged the government's standing.

Hepatitis C is a contagious viral disease causing liver inflammation.

It can lead to chronic liver infection.

Eligibility row

The new law states that Japan's government should take responsibility for the huge harm caused to those infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood products and should offer them a heartfelt apology.

Thousands of people are thought to have contracted it through blood products used over a 20 year period.

The blood-clotting agents were given to patients to stop bleeding during surgery.

Japanese hospitals continued to use the products even after they had been taken off the market in other countries like the United States.

About 200 of those who were exposed to the disease during childbirth or surgery have spent six years in court trying to win compensation from the manufacturer of the blood products and the government.

Now they will receive between $110,000 (55,600) and $367,000 each, depending on the severity of their suffering.

The government and the manufacturer will set up a fund jointly to pay the compensation. But there could still be arguments about who is eligible to receive it.

It is reported that around 1,000 people so far say they can prove they were infected after being given the tainted blood products.

But the real number of those who contracted hepatitis C is believed to be far higher.

Many may have no idea yet that they have contracted the disease as the symptoms can take some time to appear.

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