Asbestos cancer deaths up to five

AN increase in people dying from an asbestos related cancer in Dumfries and Galloway has led to renewed calls for a fund of last resort to help injured workers.

The figures, obtained by not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) show that in 2010, mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lung wall, was recorded as the underlying cause of five deaths in Dumfries and Galloway. This compares to just one in 2006.

APIL president David Bott said: “The number of men dying from this disease is expected to peak during the next five years and what many people don’t realise is that hundreds of sufferers in Scotland and across the UK cannot get the compensation they need to help them through the last days of their life.

“What is needed is for the UK Government to bring forward proposals for a fund of last resort which would act as a safety net for injured workers who are otherwise unable to pursue the justice they deserve.”

Many workers who have developed mesothelioma are sometimes unable to pursue claims for damages because they can no longer trace the employers who exposed them to asbestos, or the employers’ insurance companies.

This is because the onset of symptoms often comes decades after a worker has inhaled asbestos fibres, during which time employers go out of business and insurance documents can be lost or destroyed.

“The UK Government proposed to set up a fund of last resort shortly before the general election, but almost two years has now passed and nothing has been heard about it since,” said Mr Bott.

“In the meantime, sick and dying workers who are prevented from bringing valid cases are left effectively subsidising insurance companies which have taken money in premiums but are not paying the compensation people need.

“This unacceptable situation simply cannot go on. Something must be done before more dying victims of mesothelioma go uncompensated.

“A similar fund exists for victims injured by uninsured drivers. The UK Government must do the right thing and introduce one for injured workers.”