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MARF To Sen. Hatch: "Resolve The Injury By Curing The Cancer!"

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.
Dallas, Texas

Mathew Bergman, Esq.
Seattle, Washington

Susan Vento
St. Paul, Minnesota

Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers
Cary, North Carolina

In Memoriam
Congressman Bruce F. Vento
Bill Powell

Science Advisory Board

Harvey Pass, M.D., Chairman
Karmanos Cancer Institute

Victor Roggli, M.D.
Duke University

Robert N. Taub, M.D.
Columbia University

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.
Emory University

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

Executive Director

Christopher E. Hahn
Santa Barbara, California

1609 Garden Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
tel (805) 560-8942
fax (805) 560-8962

MARF logo

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 Resolution 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
Executive Director
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