How the FACT Act affects mesothelioma victims

I was speaking with a friend of mine recently about writing, as she's writing a urban fantasy short story, and the subject of blood types came up. You see, I always remember my blood type, B Positive, because that’s how I always strive to be. Unfortunately, sometimes I fall short of my goal. Today is one of those times.

I was really happy when on March 5th, 2012 the United States Senate passed a resolution (S-389) recognizing the first week of April as Asbestos Awareness Week. Sponsored by Senator Max Baucus of (D-MT), I was finally thinking that the United States was getting on board with knowing the facts about the dangers of asbestos exposure and more awareness about the diseases caused by it, specifically mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Imagine my utter dismay when I recently found out there is another act moving through our government that is called the “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act” or FACT Act. However, the so-called transparency ONLY pertains to the victims, not the companies responsible for putting this horrible substance out there in the first place.

What Transparency?

Why does this make me angry? Right now, Congress is being lobbied by corporations to allow them to delay the court process for asbestos victims. In delaying that process, responsible companies are less likely to have to pay anything out. Plus, THEY don’t have to be transparent about anything more than they have been. It protects the companies, while harming the victims.

This Act allows companies to ask for personal information about the victim. Companies are not held to the same standard, and don’t have to give any information. It also allows defendants to have insight into other claims so they can accuse the victim of double dipping between companies’ asbestos trusts and solvent companies. This Act is very one sided, as it protects big business asbestos companies and trusts, but not the people who have been exposed to asbestos and are now sick.

Here is the kicker-- the FACT act wants to have more proof of exposure, with most victims given between a year and 8 months to live, this burden lengthens the court proceedings and diminishes the amount of claims paid out before death. Asbestos victims will have to be far too transparent with the corporations-- they will be able to ask for greater personal information, work history, exposure, and prior claim history. These corporations who have fought so hard to be identified as people and individuals with the rights of personhood are now fighting to escape the responsibilities that personhood requires. In other words, they don't want to pay the price for harming their fellow citizens.

This is Just Wrong

After everything I have been through, after all the people I have met who are now ill because of the negligence of these corporations, after my friend was just put back into the ICU because she has more CO2 in her lungs than oxygen-- these companies want our personal information and proof of exposure.

I was 36 when I was diagnosed. 36. With a 20-30 year latency period, that puts me between 6 and 16 when I was exposed. I never had a job working with asbestos, my cancer came as second hand exposure. This, sadly, is a case more often than not.

Because of asbestos, I lost not only my career, which I loved and nurtured for 15 years, I lost the entire first year of my baby’s life. She was just 3 1/2 months old when I was diagnosed. I missed her whole 6th month of life while I had my lung removed. I missed many more milestones because I was sick from the chemo and radiation. Her whole first year of life is a blur through a chemo haze and I have asbestos to thank for this.

I can no longer work at a job that I loved because of nerve damage to my left hand from my extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery. I can’t stand behind a chair for 8 hours a day doing hair, like I used to because of my diminished lung capacity and the chemicals from all the products are not the best for me to be breathing in.

When I realized what I was up against, yes, I called a mesothelioma lawyer, and it was one of the smartest things I did besides seeking out the best doctor. A legal battle is not to be taken lightly, you want the best and I hired the best. I got sick because of the greed of large companies, and I was not going to sit back idle and let nothing happen. I lost over $4 million in earned income by getting sick so young. This comes from an independent company that figures out lost income due to illness. Yes, 4 million dollars. I can never regain that money. No lawsuit will ever amount to that.

I cannot sit here and 'B Positive' just to watch companies get away with shirking their responsibilities to people who were just going to work and doing their job, or just hugging their dad after a long day at work.

Why is it that we in America will allow our corporations to skate but other countries, such as Italy, will actually hold them accountable for their actions? I recently attended a screening of the movie “DUST The Great Asbestos Trial”, an Italian documentary made because the citizens of the city of Casale, Italy who worked and lived around an asbestos cement factory were all getting sick and dying. They sued the shareholders of the company, Eternit, and the Italian court found them GUILTY of manslaughter, sentenced them to 17 years in prison and $1,000,000 in fines. Sadly, the decision is being appealed, but hopefully it will be upheld.

Let's All 'B Positive'

So, today you are getting a blog post that is not my normal style. Today you are getting the anger I feel when I see corporations buying votes in Congress and leaving those of us who have been harmed to rot by the wayside.

But then again, you’re also getting something else. You’re getting a call to action. I don't often ask you to stand up and fight, but today I am. Those of us who are fighting this horrific cancer need your help to stand up to the corporations who refuse to be held accountable.

Today, I am asking you to call, write, email, tweet and comment to your elected representatives. Tell them how you feel about the FACT Act. Go to Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights Campaign and sign the petition to STOP the FACT Act.

You see, if corporations are going to insist on being people during election season, then they need to be held accountable for the deaths of every single one of us who contracts this horrific cancer and does not survive. They need to be held accountable for the pain and suffering all of us with this cancer feel on a daily basis. They need to be held accountable for the loss of jobs, the scarring, the fear, and the medical bills. They need to be held accountable for ALL OF IT. My wish is that these companies could witness the fear, the helplessness, and the pain of an asbestos victim and follow their journey from diagnosis, through the end. Maybe, just maybe, they will understand. I’ve lost far more friends to mesothelioma than I care to admit and it never gets easier. It gets harder and harder the more I know.

So please, if you stand up with me, I think I can move away from my anger and go back to living up to my blood type and once again 'B positive.'