Death of Hisashi Ouchi – Tokaimura Nuclear Accident

Hisashi Ouchi - Tokaimura Nuclear Accident

History of mankind is full of cruel events dating as back as Stone Age and as recent as World War II where nuclear bombs were used as an experiment as well as a tool to end the long war that continued for almost 6 years. 

At that time no one was aware of the drastic effects that it had on living beings. The area of Hiroshima and Naga Saki along with surrounding areas became a living hell. At that time, a movement was started to limit the use of nuclear weapons. SOPs were prepared for use of nuclear energy for medical use etc. The people working in these nuclear plants were exposed to health hazards. Numerous articles were written, movies were made to unearth the prospective hazards that could be faced by the people around these nuclear plants.   

The Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant Incident

Here, the incident of Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant is relevant. An unfortunate incident took place on 30th September 1999. An employee, named Hisashi Ouchi who worked in the Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant and was entrusted with the task of reprocessing Uranium by a company called JCO. That company never followed the SOPs to deal with the processing of Uranium. They were accused of unsafe transfer practices and use of out dated equipment. Above all, the employees were never provided any training to handle any unforeseen events or critical work related emergencies.

On the date of ill-fated incident, Hisashi Ouchi was performing the task of pouring a mixture of uranyl nitrate into a containment tank. Unfortunately that tank was not well equipped to handle the amount radioactive material that it was supposed to handle. Ultimately, the tank reached its point of critical mass and nuclear fission chain reaction was started.

Hisashi Ouchi was performing the task and a large portion of his body was directly extended on the tank. There were two other people in the room who were effected according to their distance from the Tank. Yutaka Yokohawa was viewing the incident from a distance of fifteen feet along with another colleague, Masato Shinohara. They all narrated the incident to investigators that they heard a large banging noise and room was filled with a blue flash which was generating large amount of neutron beams and gamma radiation.

Before he could be rescued and moved away from the incident cite, Hisashi Ouchi had been exposed to seventeen Siverts of nuclear radiation. It was double to the radiation level that has been considered fatal. It has also been said that Hisashi Ouchi was exposed to the highest level of radiation that a human being has ever been.

Nuclear Exposure

This nuclear exposure has a fatal effect on Hisashi Ouchi’s health. He struggled for 83 living in excruciating agony before finally passing away. Initially, he felt dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of being light headed. He could have died earlier but the doctors wanted to study the effects of radiation on his organs to make a breakthrough in the medical Science. Another employee Masato Shinohara also had the symptoms of dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of being light headed but he survived a little longer due to being on a distance.  The only survivor of that unfortunate incident was Yutaka Yokohawa that was also being on a distance of fifteen feet.

Keeping the Dead Alive Against His Will

But, it was Hisashi Ouchi who had the worst in this event. After he was rescued from the incident cite and transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, he seemed stable except a few initial symptoms and the doctors and nurses expected his quick recovery and discharge from hospital. But the next few days proved that his ailment will be long and he might not be able to survive long. Study of his bone marrow exhibited that his chromosomes and white blood cells were completely destroyed. Doctors were trying hard to cure him and keep him alive. 

For this they adopted multiple treatments which included a test of stem cell therapy but none of it was working.  He was being kept alive through different experiments and treatments. The radiation poisoning which he had been exposed to, this sad incident had destroyed his vital organs which resulted in organ failure. After three weeks of the incident, his intestines started hemorrhage and the doctors had to give him ten blood transfusions in the short span of time of twelve hours. His skin started sweltering and pieces of his flesh started falling off in front of doctors. 

Fluids were pouring out from the places where the skin had fallen off. Blood was pouring out even from his eyes and it felt as if he was crying blood. He was drained of all his body fluids in a single day. Blood transfusion was being administered along with other fluids to keep him alive. Skin transplant was being executed where his body has shed off the skin. But it never worked. He started shouting in pain and requested doctors to stop their efforts of keeping him alive. 

Doctors put him on a short coma to give him some relief from the pain. After two months of the incident his body continued the hemorrhages and there was no sign of improvement. His heart rate was at 120 pm due to heavy stress on it. Finally, after 83 days of the incident, on 27 November his heart stopped beating. Before that he was resuscitated three times despite his requests to end his sufferings.

Hisashi Ouchi Death

His death started a new debate that why his life was prolonged despite his critical condition and sufferings he was going through. Why his life was not ended earlier despite his repeated requests. He many times shouted in agony to let him and stop making use of him as a guinea pig. It can be justified by saying that the doctors were in search of a medical breakthrough by study and research in this case. The family also did not want him to let go and hopped for his recovery and safe return home. But they finally had to put ‘not to resuscitate’ order in effect and this chapter was closed with a sad and lasting effect on human history.

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