My husband, Bruce, was a Democratic 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. 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. 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.
Susan Vento of Cancer Victims Rights