Indirect asbestos victims seek 'justice' – BBC News

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People who developed a fatal lung disease after coming into contact with asbestos through family members have begun a campaign for compensation.

The victims, mainly women, were often exposed to asbestos while washing their spouse’s clothing.

They fall outside a compensation scheme which only covers those who contracted the disease directly at their work.

Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma – a type of cancer that mainly affects the lining of the lungs.

Victims can attempt to identify the insurance policy for the company they worked for and then pursue a civil claim.

Contaminated clothing

If that is not possible then the UK government diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme, introduced in 2014, can provide compensation.

But, neither of these options are open to the family members of employees who, for instance, brought home clothing covered with asbestos.

Euan Like, from Digby Brown solicitors who are representing some of the victims, said the government should consider extending the scheme to this group.

“The negligent act is identical for the man working in the premises and the man bringing home the overalls to his wife and her being exposed in that way,” he said.

“There is a potential argument that it is discriminatory against women as they are disproportionately affected by their inability to seek compensation either through the insurance policy or through the diffuse mesothelioma payments.

“They are left to rely on state benefits funded by the taxpayer.”

Trish Doig is one of the women who are thought to have become ill because of exposure to asbestos brought home on the clothing of a family member.

“I reckon I came into contact with asbestos when I stayed with my aunt and uncle in the 60s,” she said. “My uncle worked for a Dundee boiler company and they worked with asbestos all the time.

“I reckon the fibres came home on his clothes, he would give me a lift to work in his small van which was full of asbestos and I reckon that is where my contact came from in the 60s.

“I reckon the fibres were all around his van and anyone inside his van was exposed to these small tiny fibres that you couldn’t even see.”

Breathless

Doctors initially assumed she must have worked with asbestos when they gave her diagnosis

She said: “I was shocked. I’d never heard of this mesothelioma. Quite horrifying”

She’s always breathless

“I don’t do very much now. I still try to do housework and I still cook but as far as doing anything energetic, I find that quite hard.

“I find I don’t have the energy for that. And when I do try to do too much then I just get breathless and I have to sit down.”

Her husband Ally Doig insists their fight is “not about the money”.

“My feeling about it is the sheer injustice of it, that the government recognised in 2014 that there were lots of people who were left unable to claim because companies had stopped to exist or their insurance companies couldn’t be traced.”

Washing clothes

He agrees that the government deserves credits for at least introducing a compensation scheme.

“Unfortunately the eligibility criteria for it are limited to people who have bought the disease directly through their own employment,” he said.

“So anyone who has bought it – for example women washing their husband’s clothes – they’re excluded, they’re just not eligible for the scheme at all.

“I just reckon that really in this day and age that’s just not right. I reckon all citizens should be entitled to expect the same treatment under the law.”

Trish Doig said she cannot know why people in her position receive so small.

“I reckon it’s incorrect that they do what they do, because the way I look at it is that I didn’t question to get this disease but I have it,” she said.

“And if there is a way of some compensation, whether it’s a lot of money or a small money, then it would be quite nice to reckon at least someone’s listening out there.”

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