Board of Directors
Robert B. Cameron, M.D.
UCLA Medical School
Nicholas J. Vogelzang, M.D.
University of Chicago
Brian Loggie, M.D.
Creighton University Medical Center
Michael Harbut, M.D., M.P.H.
Royal Oak, Michigan
Roger G. Worthington, Esq.
Mathew Bergman, Esq.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Cary, North Carolina
Congressman Bruce F. Vento
Science Advisory Board
Harvey Pass, M.D., Chairman
Karmanos Cancer Institute
Victor Roggli, M.D.
Robert N. Taub, M.D.
Lary A. Robinson, M.D.
H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center
Steve Hahn, M.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Joseph R. Testa, Ph. D.
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Claire Verschraegen, M.D.
University of New Mexico
Eric Vallieres, M.D.
University of Washington
Dan Miller, M.D.
Raphael Bueno, M.D.
Harvard/Brigham and Women's
Hedy Lee Kindler, M.D.
University of Chicago
W. Roy Smythe, M.D.
M.D. Anderson/University of Texas
Christopher E. Hahn
Santa Barbara, California
1609 Garden Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
tel (805) 560-8942
fax (805) 560-8962
Our Mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.
June 3, 2003
The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003
Dear Senator Hatch:
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the national nonprofit organization
dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma as a life-ending disease, has been
pleased to assist your office in learning more about the needs of those
Americans - many of whom served in the U.S. Navy - afflicted with this
uncured asbestos-caused cancer. At the request of your staff, MARF provided
your office with a detailed blue print for the creation of a first-ever
mesothelioma research and treatment program (see attached). MARF's
doctors and advocates were overjoyed to learn from at least one of your
staffers that the proposal was reasonable, fair and long overdue.
Our joy, however, quickly turned to dismay when we received a copy of S.1125.
Of the 111 pages in the bill, not one word addressed the medical needs
of mesothelioma patients. The bill calls for the formation of a $108 billion
trust, yet not one penny of that money would be invested in providing
immediate medical help to those dying from mesothelioma today, or in a
long term research program to provide hope to the millions of Americans
exposed to asbestos and at risk for developing mesothelioma in the future.
We have asked for the privilege of participating in the solution to the
asbestos epidemic and litigation crisis. MARF is uniquely qualified to
address the medical needs of mesothelioma patients. Since 1999, MARF has
relied on the voluntary services of doctors, lawyers and patients to raise
donations from the private sector to initiate the research that should
have started 50 years ago when the disease was first reported. We have
invested these funds in promising research projects selected through a
rigorous peer review process. We have attempted to bring together the
warring factions and unite against the common enemy: the dreaded tumor
itself. As you know, of the $56 billion drained by litigation in the past
few decades, not a cent has been spent on fixing the underlying problem.
As far as we've come, however, it's not far enough. There is a
role for the government to take in helping curb the despair and provide
hope - and more life - to asbestos cancer patients. That's why we
embraced the opportunity to work with your office in tackling two problems
at once: the litigation morass, and the medical nihilism towards this
cancer that is born from the lack of any serious effort by the private
or public sector to search for a cure.
As physicians, lawyers, mesothelioma survivors and family members, we commend
you for trying to resolve a seemingly intractable problem. We hope that
the omission from the bill of language addressing the medical needs of
mesothelioma sufferers was simply an oversight. Dr. Harvey Pass, Dr. Robert
Cameron, Susan Vento and Mouzetta Zumwalt and any of our other members
stand ready to meet with you to support our view that mesothelioma in
many respects is a war-related orphan disease that deserves funding at
a level proportionate with other cancers. Your bill provides a unique
mechanism by which those responsible for creating the problem share the
responsibility for fixing it.
You and your colleagues have said this bill is a solid first start, and
you are open to suggestions. We suggest that to truly fulfill the noble
intent of your bill, as evident in its title, "the Fairness in Asbestos Injury
Act," you create a program whose objective is to
resolve the injury through prevention, research and cure. Compensating mesothelioma
victims, no matter the amount,
after their injury does not
resolve the injury. We can only really
resolve the nightmare if, as a country, we unite to fund medical research that
can render this disease curable.
Thank you again for inviting our participation and we look forward to meeting
with you and your staff at the earliest possible date.
Christopher E. Hahn
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
1 As specialized mesothelioma physicians who together have treated many
hundreds of mesothelioma victims, we note that the bill's current
wording creates a severe inequity by deducting the amount of health, disability,
Medicaid or Medicare insurance benefits received by the patient from the
total $750,000 compensation cap. Medical costs are expected to rise over
time, and mesothelioma patients already commonly face medical bills of
$200,000 to $500,000. If the patient's insurance covers these bills,
and even more so if the patient receives any disability, the patient,
or his/her survivors, would receive little or nothing from the trust fund.
This is manifestly unfair to mesothelioma victims; it also unfairly allows
the defendant companies to hitch a "free ride" on the insurance
premiums paid by the mesothelioma victim.
cc: Senate Judiciary Committee Members
Sen. Patty Murray
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Maria Cantwell
Sen. Max Baucus
Sen. Mark Dayton
Sen. Jim Jeffords
Sen. Christopher Dodd
Sen. Ben Nelson
Sen. Zell Miller