Friday, February 13, 2015

The Truth Behind the FACT Act

Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group and think tank based in D.C., shared some facts regarding the so-called “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act” (FACT Act) in an article published in Huffington Post this week.

“Astoundingly, the corporate advocates for this legislation try to portray themselves as victims of asbestos litigation.”

FACT supporters would have you believe that asbestos companies, which made untold millions selling deadly products for much of the last century, are being “victimized” and “ganged-up” upon by attorneys representing the persons who were injured or killed. Mr. Weissman reveals, however, that lobbyists representing the asbestos industry and its insurers outnumber asbestos victim advocates by seven-to-one. Of the top 50 lobbying entities most frequently mentioning asbestos, 1,362 of the mentions are from those associated with the asbestos industry, while only 186 of the mentions are from those associated with lawyers representing asbestos victims or labor unions.

“With insurers and asbestos-using companies outdistancing asbestos victim advocates by a seven-to-one margin, the disparity in insider political power is evident.”

Then there is the fact that the largest asbestos lobbyist is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce followed in no particular order by Koch Industries, Chubb Insurance, Ford Motor Company and WR Grace. Companies under the Koch “umbrella” and Ford are some of the most commonly-named defendants in asbestos cases. Not due to fraud, as they would have you believe, but due to the fact that they knowingly sold products that would cause many users to suffer painful and untreatable illness. The FACT Act is simply the latest effort to avoid responsibility for their grave and callous acts.

Mr. Weissman nails it with his closing thought; “It's hard to imagine that America would pay back the victims of a horrendous corporate cover-up by invading their privacy and victimizing them yet again.” 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Just As The Use of Asbestos Continues, So Does Corporate Wrongdoing

A Letter from Linda Lipsen to the Editor of the New York Times (Feb. 6, 2015)

Re “NewYork’s Real Scandal,” by Joe Nocera (column, Jan. 31):

For years, the asbestos industry has promoted the myth that asbestos is no longer an issue for the American public in order to make the case that it shouldn’t be held accountable today for the wrongdoings of the past.

Mr. Nocera played right into its hands when he wrote that it is a “sensible” notion that juries should not be allowed to fine asbestos corporations with punitive damages because “companies stopped making asbestos products” and there is “no behavior to correct.”

While certain asbestos products and uses have been prohibited, many others are still permitted; imports into our country continue; and throughout the world people are exposed to this toxin in their homes, workplaces and schools. It was reported in August 2014 that asbestos is currently being promoted in Asia as a product for the poor. One international asbestos executive commented that his asbestos was so safe you could eat it “for breakfast, lunch and dinner!”

Just as the use of asbestos continues, so does corporate wrongdoing. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit allowed asbestos victims to proceed with claims that an asbestos corporation and its lawyers destroyed evidence that showed its product contained asbestos.

It is essential for public health that the continuing dangers of asbestos are acknowledged and myths are not perpetuated in an effort to help the asbestos industry evade accountability.



Linda Lipsen is chief executive of the American Association for Justice, an organization that advocates on behalf of trial lawyers and their clients.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Read All About It! The WLAVA Unfurls Its Meso Program for Veterans

It’s up!

The Veteran’s Administration’s website has been updated. Veterans with mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer can now arm themselves with the tools they need to fight back.

Click here to learn more about the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Program at the West Los Angeles VA.

This is a first. Since 1998, the WLAVA has partnered with UCLA Medical School to develop rational strategies to treat mesothelioma. Unfortunately, very few veterans outside of Los Angeles knew about the alliance, as the VA didn’t publicize the program (or fund it).

Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of the John Johnson family, as well as the perseverance of Dr. Robert Cameron, the VA has finally acknowledged the program publicly. This is a giant and long-overdue step in the right direction.

John Johnson’s story is well known. Mr. Johnson, a veteran, died from mesothelioma three years ago, almost to the day. When he died, the Johnson family vowed to help the VA build a nationwide mesothelioma program and publicize it so that other veterans could access specialized care on a timely basis.

This is a very special day. We have represented veterans with mesothelioma for over two decades. In nearly every case, family members have asked what they can do to reverse the Federal government’s apathy towards service-connected mesothelioma. They have inundated politicians and administrators with letters pleading for change. And now they have something to celebrate!

We want to thank all the veterans and their wives, sons and daughters for making their voices heard. We also want to single out Dr. Dean Norman, the Chief of Staff at the WLAVA.  Dr. Norman is faced with enormous challenges. Every year his workload gets heavier, while his budget gets lighter. Dr. Norman never made any excuses. He championed the Mesothelioma program from the git-go and has vowed to find the money to build it up.

Thanks again to all the doctors, nurses and staff at the WLAVA and UCLA who have never given up on their mesothelioma patients.


For more about information about lung-sparing surgery, cryoablation, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and the specialized approach to treating sarcomatoid mesothelioma offered at the WLAVA, please click here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Motorship Reports: 85% of New Ships Still Contain Asbestos

The Motorship, a website that provides insight for marine technology professionals, reports that 85% of new ships still contain asbestos. The good news is that due to tightening restrictions within the shipping industry, that number will be going down.

Asbestos is not be banned in the U.S., but it is banned in other countries. Australia and the Netherlands will no longer accept ships that are found to contain asbestos. Even if a supplier has provided a declaration stating the ship is asbestos free, upon inspection, surveyors have still been locating asbestos.

Asbestos free means different things in different countries, Australia’s threshold is zero percent, while in Europe 0.1% is considered safe, 1.0% is considered safe in America, and China has no official standard. We know that no amount of asbestos is safe, no matter how small.

The problem lies in that asbestos is still used freely in some countries, and different components for the ships come from different countries. This poses a great risk “when ships containing potentially hazardous materials need repair,” according to John Chillingworth, senior vice president of CTI Marine, the only company approved by the SOLAS Convention to perform asbestos surveys on ships.

The repercussions of finding asbestos on a certified asbestos free ship are costly. The only solution is that all ships must be surveyed by a SOLAS approved surveyor. “Both owner and yard benefit from a proper survey. […] beneficiaries are equipment suppliers, because if a survey does find asbestos it can be dealt with prior to delivery, eliminating warranty and damage claims. Perhaps the greatest benefits are to the shipyard workers who can enjoy a safer working environment.”

Given that Congress has failed to legislate a ban, if industries restrict the use of asbestos in their respective trades, it could effectively end the need for one.

Click here to read the report.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Paul Zygeilbaum, 12 Year Survivor, Continuing the Fight to Outlast Mesothelioma and Ban Asbestos

When told that he is a source of
inspiration for other mesothelioma
patients, Zygielbaum responds,
“It’s the other way around."
Paul Zygeilbaum was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003 and for the last 12 years has been an outspoken advocate for mesothelioma victims’ rights, medical research and a ban of asbestos. Paul was recently profiled in an SF Gate article in which he states: “The goal is to die of something else.”

Over 60 countries worldwide have banned asbestos. Shockingly, this does not include the U.S. As the article correctly observes, “Congress has made several efforts to legislate a ban — all thwarted by industrial lobbies and partisan wrangling.”

Asbestos is dangerous at any percentage, even under 1% in a product. It is beyond comprehension that it has not yet been completely banned in the U.S., and sadly there seems to be no end in sight. The article states, “It’s safe to say prospects are bleak for any effort in the 114th Congress to ban asbestos. In fact, a bill to reduce corporate asbestos liability, passed by the House last year, is now expected to be introduced in the Senate early in 2015.”

Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, who lost her husband to mesothelioma in 2006, says, “I am gravely concerned about the new 2015 Senate and fear that asbestos victims’ civil rights and public health will be buried […]”

A long uphill battle remains, but thanks to mesothelioma warriors like Paul, Linda and countless others, the battle will continue until it is won.

We have been covering Paul’s extraordinary story since the firm participated in the handling of Paul’s asbestos legal claims. See the links below to learn more about Paul’s efforts to ban asbestos, raise public awareness about the continuing threat posed by asbestos and support medical research into new treatments for mesothelioma.

More from Paul Zygielbaum:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Son of a Mesothelioma Victim Shows Veterans with Mesothelioma How to Get the Right Answers, Right Away

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The West Los Angeles Veterans' Administration Medical Center (West LA VAMC) has taken an important first step to help victims suffering with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), by establishing a Comprehensive Mesothelioma Center at the West LA VAMC.

"Unfortunately, the center is not on the radar," said Clare Cameron, executive director of The Pacific Meso Center. "There is no mention of the Center on the VA website and many doctors in the VA system aren't clued in as to where to get advice or how to utilize the system.  In the meantime, veterans are being misdiagnosed or needlessly suffering without access to specialized care."

The Comprehensive Mesothelioma Center (CMC) in West Los Angeles is headed by Dr. Robert B. Cameron, MD, FACS. His team includes doctors and nurse practitioners who specialize in the areas of pathology, radiation, pulmonary (lung), oncology (cancer) and anesthesia. All have extensive experience with diagnosing and treating MPM, an asbestos-related cancer affecting the lining of the chest - the pleura.

The Pacific Meso Center (PMC) at the Pacific Heart Lung & Blood Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization, focused on finding better treatments for victims of MPM, has issued a protocol to help mesothelioma sufferers navigate the system and get to the right specialists in time:

Step 1: The patient should inform his or her doctor at his local VA facility about the specialized treatment available at West LA VAMC - the only specialized mesothelioma treatment center in the VA system.

Step 2: Ask the local doctor to contact the West Los Angeles VAMC and request an "inter-facility" consult through the VA's "TeleHealth" program. The person to contact is Almaz Tesfasilase, the cardiothoracic surgery case manager at the West LA VAMC, at (310) 268-4543.

Step 3: Doctors at the CMC will conduct a "virtual consult" by reviewing the patient's medical records and films. They can then assist the local VA doctor with determining the precise diagnosis and recommending a course of treatment.

Step 4: If appropriate, the patient can be referred to the West LA VAMC for specialized treatment. A patient referred to the CMC will have travel expenses paid for by the VA. While in Los Angeles, complimentary lodging will be arranged at the Fisher House, the new West Los Angeles Hotel or a local hotel. The CMC will also arrange for transportation between the hotel and the medical center.

The PMC acknowledges the support of the John Johnson family. John Johnson was a veteran who passed away from mesothelioma in 2012. According to Michael Johnson, "My father might be alive today if he had access to specialists within the VA, but by the time he had heard about Dr. Cameron and his team from friends outside of the VA, it was too late." Johnson's 501(c)(3) non-profit, J.J. Mesothelioma Foundation | Fight Mesothelioma Now!, has a mission to reach out and help mesothelioma sufferers and their families with encouragement and advice, and guide them to the right people at the VA.  See Johnson's step by step video guide.

For further information, please contact:

Clare Cameron – 310-478-4678

Monday, December 15, 2014

Son of a Mesothelioma Victim Urges VA Secretary of Health to Fund Medical Program Dedicated to Veterans Stricken with Asbestos Cancer

LOS ANGELESDec. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pacific Meso Center (PMC) is urging the US Veterans Administration (VA) to enhance mesothelioma healthcare services at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center (VAMC). Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Nearly one-third of the 3500 Americans diagnosed annually with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in Navy shipyards or military facilities, making veterans among those most at risk for this cancer.

The campaign to establish a comprehensive meso center at the West LA VA was spearheaded by the family of John Johnson, a former US Marine who lost his battle with mesothelioma in 2012.  They believe that if Mr. Johnson had had timely access to specialized care, he might be alive today. The family has pledged substantial funds to help create, publicize and build the program, citing the need to prevent other veterans from receiving substandard care.

The US Government has never fully funded a medical program dedicated to veterans stricken with asbestos cancer. The Comprehensive Meso Center will give veterans access to an early diagnosis, optimal treatments, and leading mesothelioma specialists, including Robert B. Cameron, MD, FACS, who pioneered the innovative lung-sparing surgery for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

While veterans fortunate enough to know about this Center receive an unprecedented high standard of care, the Center itself remains a virtual secret. The Center and its specialized services are not mentioned on the VA's website.

In an online video plea Michael Johnsons Powerful Message to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonaldMichael JohnsonJohn Johnson's son, said, "We're asking the VA to simply educate doctors and veterans via its website and media promotions so that veterans can learn about resources at this Center. How many veterans have to die to get your attention?" 
Supporters of the Comprehensive Meso Center ask that it be called the "Elmo Zumwalt Comprehensive Mesothelioma Treatment & Research Center," in honor of the Navy Admiral who succumbed to mesothelioma. In addition, advocates are petitioning Secretary McDonald for VA funding of $5 million per year to cover the Center's expansion costs. "With adequate financial backing, the Center can provide comprehensive treatment services to an increased numbers of veterans nationwide. Funding also will allow top scientists to conduct clinical trials to benefit veterans diagnosed in the future," said Clare Cameron, Executive Director of the PMC.
For further information, please contact:
Clare Cameron - 310-478-4678
SOURCE Pacific Meso Center