Mesothelioma and Lawsuits

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Legal issues about Mesothelioma and lung cancer

In the United States, the average mesothelioma-related settlement was $1 million; for cases that go to trial awards averaged $6 million, according to a study by the RAND Corporation. Only a small fraction of the thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits in the United States every year are related to mesothelioma. In 2004, a bill in the United States Senate aimed a asbestos litigation reform failed to reach a floor vote. In January of 2005, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter announced he would again try to pass an asbestos litigation reform bill.

A seperate bill introduced on March 17, 2005, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 (FAIR act of 2005), seeks to ensure a set amount of compensation dependent on the symptoms of the victim. The range is from Medical Monitoring for victims with Asbestosis or Pleural Disease to $35,000 for victims with Mixed Disease With Impairment all the way to over $1,000,000 for Mesothelioma victims and nonsmoking Lung Cancer victims. "FAIR act of 2005, full text (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.1360.IH:)." FAIR act of 2005, full text. Accessed on April 13, 2005.

Care should be taken to distinguish between several forms of relevant diseases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these may defined as:-

asbestosis (which is a slowly developing fibrosis of the lung caused by the inhalation of high concentrations of asbestos dust and/or long exposure),

lung cancer, or “bronchial carcinoma” which can result from occupational exposures to certain substances, including asbestos fibres (even without co-existing asbestosis) and,

mesothelioma which is a malignant tumour of the pleura or peritoneum.

The latter is normally a very rare type of cancer (typically less than 0.04% of all deaths in the general population). A higher incidence of mesothelioma has nearly always been related to the inhalation of mineral fibres, and in the majority of cases to occupational asbestos exposure.

In order to not present an over-long article here, currently only specific examples regarding the situation in Britain and the USA are included.

Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) is sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. Before any new treatment can be recommended for general use, doctors conduct clinical trials to find out whether the treatment is safe for patients and effective against the disease. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many patients with mesothelioma.

Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure exists in almost all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.

The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung. The Kent brand of cigarettes used asbestos in its filters for the first few years of production in the 1950s and some cases of mesothelioma have resulted. Smoking current cigarettes does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.

Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

Exposure
Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. By contrast, the British Government's Health and Safety executive (HSE) states formally that any threshold for mesothelioma must be at a very low level and it is widely agreed that if any such threshold does exists at all, then it cannot currently be quantified. For practical purposes, therefore, HSE does not assume that any such threshold exists. People who work with asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.

The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma. On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.

Family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestos fibers, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.

Much controversy still continues regarding Asbestosis (and asbestos-related diseases) compensation and liability disputes.

Treatment
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient's age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.

Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural mesothelioma), a lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat mesothelioma are given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).
To relieve symptoms and control pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen. The procedure for removing fluid from the chest is called thoracentesis. Removal of fluid from the abdomen is called paracentesis. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating. Radiation therapy and surgery may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.

Insurance and bankruptcy
Rightly or wrongly, financial settlements have been juridically enforced at a level which has bankrupt some industrial companies and threatened some of the World's largest insurance companies (BBC report on Lloyds).

Growing disputes are foreseen for the coming decades as current trends indicate that the rate at which people are diagnosed with the disease will most probably increase very significantly.

The RAND Institute for Civil Justice has recognized that asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history. Recent sharp increases have been confirmed in the rate of filing asbestos claims in the United States, as have concommitant increases in the number and types of firms named as defendants, and also an escalation in the costs of the litigation to these defendants. (Analysts have estimated that the total costs of asbestos litigation in the USA alone will eventually reach $200 billion,). Research supported by RAND [3] highlights questions as to whether compensation is really distributed fairly among claimants and in proportion to their true need, and, furthermore, whether the actual responsibility for paying compensation is being allocated justly among defendants and in proportion to their percieved and/or proven degree of culpability.

The continuing controversy over asbestos-related liability issues is reflected by recent press reports on the topic:-

In her article "Equitas warns on asbestosis" of 22/06/2002, Helen Dunne, The British Daily Telegraph's Associate City Editor reported; "Equitas, the reinsurance vehicle which assumed the liabilities that once threatened to overwhelm Lloyd's of London, warned yesterday that asbestosis claims were the "greatest single threat" to its existence.", and "Equitas increased gross undiscounted provisions for future asbestosis claims by £3.2 billion in the two years ending March 2001, but has decided that further reserves this year are unnecessary.". This could be considered to indicate that appropriate financial previsions have now been made to address the issue, in this case (though this is not yet universally accepted).

A more recent article (http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=136306) reports, "Amicus, Britain's biggest private sector union, will today, 14/12/04, condemn insurers who are attempting to shirk their responsibility to compensate up to 75% of asbestos claims in a High Court challenge. Insurers are challenging the right for workers exposed to asbestos to claim compensation for pleural plaques, a calcification of the lungs that can be caused by exposure to asbestos. There are on average 14,000 pleural plaques cases a year. The test case being summed up in the High Court today involving Amicus members could have far reaching consequences for thousands of workers who have been exposed to asbestos over the past 50 years". This outlines the continuing discontent in some sectors of British society.

In the USA, key asbestos lawsuits have included; Bell v. Dresser Industries Inc., Borel v. Fibreboard Corporation, and Waters v. W. R. Grace. More information on these and other, asbestos-related issues in the USA are reviewed on the Asbestos Resouce Center (http://www.asbestosresource.com/litigation/lawsuits.html) website.

Some idea of the scale of the American problem is indicated by the fact that, regarding just one of many cases, on January 7, 1991 Eagle-Picher Industries also sought bankruptcy protection by filing Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati. The company cited in its bankruptcy petition past payments totalling $600 million issued to 65,000 asbestos claimants and the inability to pay an additional $45 million in negotiated settlements.

The above information about Mesothelioma and lung cancer are extracts from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer from Asbestos and Class Action Lawsuits

400,000 New Yorkers Breathed the most Toxic Pollutant. Asbestos Poisoning Symptoms. Are you at Risk?

Copyright 2004, Thelioma.com

Recent study of U.S. government provides the latest evidence of
a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after
the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths
than the attacks themselves.

Belfast Telegraph says, The Bush administration suppressed
evidence of increasing danger and officially announced that
the air around the felled buildings was "safe to breathe".

But results of the government study, conducted by a consortium
of researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia
University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, The
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, show exposure-related
increases in new-onset cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, and
bronchial hyperreactivity more than 2½ years after the disaster.

Ambient air samples showed that asbestos levels in the WTC area
were initially elevated following the September 11 attacks, but
fell to within federal standards after the first few days.

" More research is needed to determine whether long-term exposure
to asbestos fibers might lead to an increased risk of lung
mesothelioma, a rare cancer that has been linked to asbestos
exposure," said Landrigan. "Previous studies have shown the short
chrysotile fibers found in the WTC dust to be the predominant
fiber in lung mesothelioma tissue."

It is important to note that symptoms of mesothelioma may not
appear until 30-50 years after exposure to asbestos.

Often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are:

* shortness of breath,
* pain in the chest

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:

* weight loss,
* abdominal pain,
* swelling,
* bowel obstruction,
* blood clotting,
* anemia,
* fever.

If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts
of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or
swelling of the neck or face.

It is very important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms.
Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

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Educate yourself on mesothelioma, asbestos and class action lawsuits. Check out latest breaking news on mesothelioma at http://www.thelioma.com (opens in new window).


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