Encouraging news for the victims of asbestosis or mesothlioma disease who spend their last days under the special care provided by the hospice service, and whose costs are often met by donations from charitable organisations.
An appeal was withdrawn against a high court judgement, which required the insurance company of a power station employer to pay all the costs of a north London hospice who cared for a former employee for just over three weeks before passing away.
For much of the twentieth century, there was widespread use of asbestos fibres throughout the UK in the production of inexpensive insulator and fire retardant products such as large scale boiler linings, pipe laggings, electrical isolators, cement tilings and sprayed surfaces in key industries such as shipbuilding, railway engineering, foundries and power stations.
Many thousands of workers such as the former power station employee were exposed to asbestos every day, yet due to the lack of asbestos awareness of the long term health risks very little protection was provided or safety procedures carried out. The use of the most dangerous forms of asbestos was only banned from the mid 1980s onwards, while the less toxic white asbestos continued to be used in building industry materials until imports were banned in 1999.
The long gestation period of asbestos-related disease means that up to 50 years may elapse from the time of original exposure and the breathing in of the deadly fibre dust until the appearance of mesothlioma or asbestosis symptoms. Often the disease would have reached an advanced stage and survival rates can be less than 6 months from a confirmed diagnosis.
The case of the former power station worker is not untypical. Aged in his early 20s when employment began in 1951, regular exposure to asbestos occurred during the construction of the new power station boilers. It was not until 50 years later that mesothelioma was diagnosed and the patient only survived for a further 23 days.
It was only back in March that the Supreme Court ruled that former employer insurers are liable to pay mesothelioma compensation dating back to the actual time when the employee was first exposed and breathed in asbestos (Employers Liability Policy Trigger Litigation). Read more about the ruling here.
Over 4,000 asbestos disease related deaths are recorded annually in the UK,and the number of asbestosis claim cases has more than doubled in three years. The withdrawal of the appeal by the insurers to pay hospice costs in the present case sends a positive signal for the future to both mesothelioma patients, their families and the hospices of the much needed financial redress from a mesothelioma claim.