Minamata disease

, sometimes referred to as , is a neurological
Neurology is a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effector tissue,...

 syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning
Mercury poisoning
Mercury poisoning is a disease caused by exposure to mercury or its compounds. Mercury is a heavy metal occurring in several forms, all of which can produce toxic effects in high enough doses...

. Symptoms include ataxia
Ataxia is a neurological sign and symptom that consists of gross lack of coordination of muscle movements. Ataxia is a non-specific clinical manifestation implying dysfunction of the parts of the nervous system that coordinate movement, such as the cerebellum...

, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness
Muscle weakness
Muscle weakness or myasthenia is a lack of muscle strength. The causes are many and can be divided into conditions that have true or perceived muscle weakness...

, narrowing of the field of vision
Field of view
The field of view is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment....

 and damage to hearing
Hearing (sense)
Hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. It is one of the traditional five senses...

 and speech
Manner of articulation
In linguistics, manner of articulation describes how the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs are involved in making a sound. Often the concept is only used for the production of consonants, even though the movement of the articulars will also greatly alter the resonant properties of the...

. In extreme cases, insanity
Insanity, craziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including becoming a danger to themselves and others, though not all such acts are considered insanity...

, paralysis
Paralysis is loss of muscle function for one or more muscles. Paralysis can be accompanied by a loss of feeling in the affected area if there is sensory damage as well as motor. A study conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, suggests that about 1 in 50 people have been diagnosed...

, coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

, and death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect fetus
A fetus is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth.In humans, the fetal stage of prenatal development starts at the beginning of the 11th week in gestational age, which is the 9th week after fertilization.-Etymology and spelling variations:The...

es in the womb.

Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata
Minamata, Kumamoto
is a city located in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan. It is on the west coast of Kyūshū. The city was founded on April 1, 1949.As of 2008, the city has an estimated population of 27,856 and the density of 171 persons per km²...

 city in Kumamoto prefecture
Kumamoto Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on Kyushu Island. The capital is the city of Kumamoto.- History :Historically the area was called Higo Province; and the province was renamed Kumamoto during the Meiji Restoration. The creation of prefectures was part of the abolition of the feudal system...

, Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 in 1956.
Unanswered Questions

"It is the pain of the still-necessity humility and obsequiousness toward authorities who have done nothing to help them, added to the suffering caused by the pollution, that makes the protesters heroes..."

George calls the victims heroes because despite all they endured, there were still some who would not give up. p. 90.

"The importance of the court victory for the patients in the Trial Group went beyond financial compensation. To them, the court victory meant recognition that their complaints were just and that they were owed restitution by a system that had no right to exclude them."

George on Compensation. p. 249.

"[f]irst, direct negotiations with the company would be attempted; if they failed, the society would seek mediation. Only as a last resort, if mediation failed, would they sue."

George on suing as a last resort. p. 191.