[Leprosy and human rights: trends in Japan and in the world].
Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, has long been regarded as an incurable and dreadful contagious disease. The patients have been forcefully hospitalized and deprived of many basic human rights. Their family members have often been discriminated against due to stigma associated with this disease. Soon after the Second World War, a specific remedy called "multi-drug therapy" (MDT) was discovered and leprosy became a relatively easily curable disease. Despite this medical development, it took time to change the policy and legislation of forceful hospitalization of leprosy patients. The stigma surrounding leprosy and consequent discrimination have continued. In Japan, it was only in 1996 that the legislation requiring forceful hospitalization of leprosy patients was repealed. The Government decided to provide remedies to the former patients who had suffered from this policy. At the United Nations, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to eradicate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. It is hoped that discrimination associated with Hansen's disease will soon be overcome by the efforts of all concerned, particularly doctors and nurses who are specialists of this disease.