UK Government Still Pondering Whether to Reinstate Claiming for Pleural Plaques

The UK government continues to ponder a consultation posing questions including whether to reinstate tort claiming for pleural plaques and/or whether the government should make payments to all persons with plaques. The latest pronouncement from the UK government was made yesterday (12/15/09) and is here. The statement does not commit to a decision date. The original planned answer date was over a year ago.

For eight detailed, prior posts on the UK pleural plaques topic, look to the left for the category “pleural plaques.” Here is a detailed opposition paper (37 pages) I submitted to the UK government outlining my view opposing payments for pleural plaques. The gist of the argument is that money and time is best spent supporting research to prevent, manage, or full cure cancer instead of making payments because of the presence of a marker (a pleural plaque) of past inhalation of asbestos fibers. Making payments for “markers” is unwise social policy because today’s exploding science almost daily generates new data and finds new “markers” for past exposures. The markers include, for example, genetic changes caused by past exposures to various substances. The following two paragraphs from my submission provide specific examples of the growing prevalence of “markers.”

“10.3 Scientific Journals Regarding Markers: Markers of past events and/or future risks are now common enough that scientific journals are devoted specifically to the discussion of markers for conditions and risks. Indeed, two of these journals are sensibly known as Disease Markers and Cancer Biomarkers. See generally http://www.iospress.nl/loadtop/load.php?isbn=02780240.

10.4 Exponential Increase In Genomic Testing: Thanks to continuing and exponentially increasing advances in science, literally hundreds of tests are now available to identify persons with genomic patterns that include a particular set of characteristics that may mark a risk of future disease. According to one legal commentator, “[a]s of August, 2007, there were 1300 facilities performing tests relating to more than 700 genetic conditions, compared to 110 facilities and 111 conditions in 1993.” See generally Robert Milligan, Coverage and Reimbursement for Pharmacogenomic Testing, 48 Jurimetrics The Journal of Law, Science & Technology, No. 2, 137, 142 (Winter 2008) (Symposium: Law and the New Era of Personalized Medicine). Thus, there is truly an exponential rate to the increase in methods for and facilities involved in identifying “markers” for potential risks.

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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