Asbestos compensation case remains unsettled
Personal injury lawyers and health campaigners have criticised a recent Government decision to again put on hold a final ruling, which would settle the long-running saga of pleural plaque claims.
Since a House of Lords ruling two years ago campaigners have been putting pressure on Gordon Brown’s Government to reconsider the decision and to grant restitution to those who have been affected by asbestos-related illnesses.
Across the country, thousands of victims of the disease were taken back by the recent Government announcement that more time was needed to decide the matter, despite a long-running enquiry having been completed.
A final decision was expected earlier this week but Home Secretary Jack Straw told Parliament that more time was need and that a final announcement would be put back until the autumn.
In the medical world there is still a great deal of controversy about the extent to which pleural plaques, or a build up of fibrosis in the lungs, are a danger to health.
Some experts have maintained a link between the disease and an increased likelihood of developing deadly lung diseases such as Mesothelioma.
A leading personal injury lawyer who is representing a number of claimants has said that the further delay, in what has already become an extremely long case, was "unfair to sufferers" and that nearly ten months after the conclusion of the independent study there should be ample evidence for a decision one way or another.
He said: "We are hugely disappointed that the Government has still not come to a decision on pleural plaques. We very much hope that the Government uses the recess to have a long look at the issues involved and we hope they come to a decision soon."
"It is unfair to keep sufferers of this disease waiting to hear whether they can receive compensation for their condition. Our clients are confused and distressed. The Government's mixed messages are not bringing any piece of mind to pleural plaque sufferers."
The sheer number of people who have suffered personal injury because of exposure to asbestos during the past fifty years has been of pressing concern to victims and campaigners alike. Industrial workers were particularly at risk of illness, often having not been told of the dangers that could result from contamination.
Asbestos related fatalities to rise
Reports compiled in recent years suggest that up to 5,000 people a year die from an asbestos related illness, which could well be set to grow in years to come.
One campaigner from the North of England made clear his disappointment at the turn of events but maintained he was still hopeful that the final decision, when it comes, will be positive.
"The slow progress regarding asbestos-related pleural plaques is frustrating but I am sure common sense and eventually prevail,” said Rochdale campaigner.
"The need for medical research into asbestos related diseases, especially terminal cancer, is paramount. So many people who gave so much to this country in taxes have paid the ultimate price with their health and lives.
Future exposures to asbestos must be prevented. Those who already face a 'ticking time bomb' deserve respect and justice."
Despite putting off the final decision on pleural plaques Straw did say that the Government was considering setting up a number of other asbestos-related schemes including a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease and a new, more efficient system for compensating Mesothelioma sufferers.