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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

A Slow Death

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

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"Japan's worst nuclear radiation accident took place at a uranium reprocessing facility in Tokaimura, northeast of Tokyo, on 30 September 1999. The direct cause of the accident was cited as the depositing of a uranyl nitrate solution--containing about 16.6 kg of uranium, which exceeded the critical mass--into a precipitation tank. Three workers were exposed to extreme doses of radiation.

Hiroshi Ouchi, one of these workers, was transferred to the University of Tokyo Hospital Emergency Room, three days after the accident. Dr. Maekawa and his staff initially thought that Ouchi looked relatively well for a person exposed to such radiation levels. He could talk, and only his right hand was a little swollen with redness. However, his condition gradually weakened as the radioactivity broke down the chromosomes in his cells.

The doctors were at a loss as to what to do. There were very few precedents and proven medical treatments for the victims of radiation poisoning. Less than 20 nuclear accidents had occurred in the world to that point, and most of those happened 30 years ago. This book documents the following 83 days of treatment until his passing, with detailed descriptions and explanations of the radiation poisoning."


A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness is a nonfiction novel by NHK TV Crew.

This is most definitely a brutal read. This details, as the title says, the slow death of Hiroshi Ouchi who was exposed to a lethal amount of radiation. I don't really know much about radiation and its effects on the human body other than that it ain't good for you and it ain't pretty.

That is made very obvious by the description of what Ouchi went through. This man suffered every day for 83 days until he passed, and you really feel for him.

In the beginning he tried to stay positive and he would even crack jokes to make the nurses more comfortable. The more his body started to deteriorate, the more you became aware of his suffering. It got to the point where he was covered in full body gauze and was unable to breathe on his own.

They really don't hold back all the gruesome details of what he went through, and they even include some pictures as well, so go into this with caution if you are squeamish. On an emotional level, the fact that he also had a wife and a son who had to watch him suffer but also try to stay positive is heartbreaking.

It was good to see that six people were held on trial and sentenced to jail for negligence causing death. Ouchi was not the only one who died as his coworker Shinohara passed away as well. I do wish that they also included his story as well, but there was probably a reason as to why they didn't.

This book also brings up many questions about the medical world. With Ouchi suffering and not being able to speak eventually, questions about consent come up. It was stated in the book that at one point Ouchi said that he couldn't deal with the treatments anymore, but the doctors persisted. I get that the doctors were trying to do their best in saving him, but knowing that he ultimately passed away, they could have just been prolonging his suffering.

I don't know much about the medical world legally, but did he have the right to refuse treatment?

I am not going to not give this book a rating as it doesn't really seem right to do so. If you want to learn about radiation and its effects on the human body, and can stomach it, I would suggest you try this out.

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