Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Taking A Stand: The Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights Campaign

Below is a guest post from Susan Vento, a spokesperson for the Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights Campaign (ACVRC). The ACVRC is currently working to raise awareness and take action against the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act. This act will hinder the ability of patients and survivors of asbestos-related diseases to get justice for the harm done to them by companies who used asbestos and allowed employees to be exposed to asbestos despite their knowledge of its terrible health consequences. 

FACT will make the legal process even longer in the U.S., which means even fewer patients and survivors will be compensated for their losses due to their asbestos-related disease. Supporting these companies is not a precedent that should be set in the fight to ban asbestos. Instead, like Susan Vento and ACVRC, let's stand up for patient and survivor rights. 

My husband, Bruce, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives until October 10th, 2000 when he died of pleural mesothelioma––a rare disease caused by asbestos exposure. He was exposed during his work as a laborer, a job he took so he could put himself through college. While many only know of asbestos cancers like mesothelioma from late-night television commercials, there are a growing number of people experiencing the real fate this deadly disease carries.

Mesothelioma is known as being a fast mover after diagnosis, taking most victims’ lives just four to eighteen months later. Tens of millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos; more than 27 million people were occupationally exposed between 1940 and 1979. Millions of those exposed have fallen ill, or will fall ill in the future; many have died and many more will die as a result of their exposure. Despite these terrifying facts, asbestos is STILL not completely banned in the US today.

Asbestos victims rely on compensation from personal injury trusts through asbestos claims to cover their insurmountable medical expenses, but sadly many victims only receive a small percentage of what companies owe them. This places a huge burden on the victims and their families.

Recently, asbestos companies are using their political influence to push a new bill in Congress, led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is called the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act”. In short, these companies want to use this bill as a means to delay medical payments, which results in most victims dying before they seek justice. The parties in support of this bill are hiding behind this notion of “transparency”, but the reality is this bill places burdensome reporting requirements on victims applying to the bankruptcy trusts. This requirement is not two-sided, however. The same companies who are to blame won’t have comparable requirements, creating a one-sided and unfair bill designed to debilitate those who have already been injured. Personally identifiable information such as the last four digits of social security numbers, private work history, and personal information of children exposed at an early age would become public, making victims vulnerable to identity theft and discrimination.

This is just the latest attempt by big companies and individuals like the Koch brothers to avoid responsibility for their heinous wrongdoings. Just last week the House Judiciary Committee began fast-tracking this bill. Even though the Committee promised to hold a public hearing to provide an opportunity for a patient and two widows to testify, they instead sent the bill to a full committee markup and vote without bothering to hear the victims’ side of the story.

The time is now for us to take a stand. I am a spokesperson for the Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign. The ACVRC is a national campaign dedicated to protecting the rights and privacy of asbestos victims and their families.  By joining our fight, you can help us defeat this unfair legislation and the potentially dangerous precedent it sets.

I work with the ACVRC to honor Bruce’s legacy as well as do what I can to help other patients and families protect their legal and constitutional rights. While awareness and information surrounding mesothelioma have improved considerably, we need to continue raising our voices. Starting with signing our petition, I encourage you to join our effort. Despite where you reside, be it Canada or the United States, signing your name in support of the ACVRC will still make an impact. With your help, we can put a stop to this legislation. Together, we can work towards building a better tomorrow and truly make a lasting difference.

To stay updated and for more information, be sure to find the Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights campaign on their website and on Facebook and Twitter

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