Recent news reports have been featuring the story of a 66 year old Sutton lady who lost her husband to mesothelioma in July 2009. Monica Haxton’s husband was an electrician who contracted the incurable lung cancer when he was exposed to asbestos dust while dismantling boilers.
They were married for 45 years and the whole family was devastated by his diagnosis. Monica cared for her husband while he was dying, watching him suffer pain and agony until his dying breath. Just as Monica was beginning to come to terms with her loss and beginning to rebuild her life, things took a turn for the worse.
In a most cruel twist of fate, two years after her husband’s death, Monica began to suffer with the same symptoms and was also diagnosed with mesothelioma. She was exposed to the deadly dust while regularly washing his asbestos contaminated work overalls – the couple didn’t have a washing machine so Monica would shake the dust out of the overalls before washing them by hand in the sink. Monica now faces a similar fate to that of her husband and has been fighting to secure a payout from his employer’s insurer. The couple’s children will undergo the horrific experience of watching a second parent die from this harrowing and deadly cancer.
Monica Haxton was recently awarded a settlement of £700,000 in a landmark case in the Appeal Court. The company’s insurer admitted full responsibility for her husband’s cancer but refused a second settlement for negligence for her own terminal condition. They claimed that she was not entitled to the extra damages because her life expectancy had been reduced. Recent developments saw the Appeal Court judge reversing the ruling and ordered the insurers to pay in full.
This sorry state of affairs highlights the fact that asbestos continues to be a problem here in the UK, despite a total ban on its use in 1999. There is so much asbestos in buildings all over the UK that it’s difficult to imagine a time when it will no longer cause a threat to us. We’re still not safe from asbestos in the UK and there are more and more cases of mesothelioma coming to light on a monthly basis. This means that for many years to come, we will be hearing of people who are diagnosed with this illness – a tragic aftermath of the prolific use of asbestos in the construction industry for so many years.
Although there’s nothing that can be done to reverse this situation, we should be looking towards a future when the risks posed by asbestos are minimised. The most effective way to minimise the risks is to educate the population about asbestos. There are plenty of regulations now in place to ensure that the dangers of asbestos are taken seriously and that building owners take responsibility for checking for asbestos in their premises. When asbestos is found (or suspected), then there are rules in place for how it should be handled. If the asbestos is not damaged, then it’s usually best left in place if possible.