The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology


Statement regarding the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Act

Update: May 1, 2024

Statement regarding the now-defunct Eugenic Protection Act

February 1, 2024

 The now-defunct Eugenic Protection Act, established in 1948, aimed to “prevent the birth of descendants who are inferior from a eugenic point of view.” This act was enforced over a 48-year period, mandating “eugenic surgeries,” which included sterilization operations conducted under an Order as well as induced abortions, to be performed on individuals with mental disorders, intellectual disabilities, neurological disorders, and physical disabilities that were considered to be hereditary based on the knowledge of eugenics and genetics during that time. However, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology (hereafter referred to as “JSPN”) has never officially expressed its opinion on eugenic legislation, except for the “Opinion on Eugenic Protection Law” (1992), which was sent to the government. Recently, the Legal Committee of the JSPN has conducted an investigation spanning several years with the aim of clarifying the role of psychiatric care and psychiatrists under the Eugenic Protection Act and obtaining suggestions for the future of the JSPN. The results of this investigation are briefly reported here, with detailed findings in the full report.

 In a period of approximately 10 years after the enactment of the Eugenic Protection Act, the government spearheaded a robust system for making referrals and approving forced sterilizations, albeit with some variations between municipalities. This was an era of rapid population growth and widespread poverty; therefore, the government and the various Eugenic Protection Councils worked collaboratively to implement the Eugenic Protection Act, resulting in numerous individuals becoming victims of forced sterilization. Although the psychiatrists who made referrals for forced sterilizations have not left any testimonies, they continued to act in their assigned role, prioritizing state policy over ethics and remaining indifferent and uncritical as they observed from the sidelines. The Eugenics Protection Councils, which included psychiatrists among their members, approved the majority of applications even after being fully aware of the realities of the referral system. As such, the members of these councils bear an even heavier burden of responsibility than those who made the referrals.


 Even till 1970s, when the forced sterilization issue was highlighted, the JSPN failed to express an official opinion. This inaction allowed the Eugenic Protection Act to persist, leading to additional victims of eugenic surgeries. We cannot ignore the historical reality that the JSPN, whether actively or passively, has caused irreparable harm to victims of forced sterilization and other types of eugenic surgeries.


  The JSPN, as an academic society responsible for psychiatric care, offers a sincere and unreserved apology to the victims of forced sterilization for the harm inflicted upon their lives and for the disregard of their human rights.


 The Eugenic Protection Act cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. The JSPN and its members must learn from our history, reflect deeply on the relationship between psychiatry and society, and constantly ask questions to ensure that nothing similar will happen again. Furthermore, we pledge to do our utmost efforts to reform systemic injustices and to fight the discrimination against mental and intellectual disabilities that exists even today.

Masaru Mimura
The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology

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