Call us toll-free today

1-800-998-9729

Do I have a case?













Lung Cancer
Mesothelioma
Other/None






Asbestos News

How to ease suffering for victims of asbestos

By Joan McAlpine, The Heald, May 22, 2006

Malignant pleural mesothelioma kills someone every five hours in this country. It is an epidemic of which most people are ignorant. All cancer is awful, but this one is particularly unforgiving and painful.

The tumour grows rapidly in the lining of the lung, eventually invading the diaphragm, chest wall, muscles, ribs, heart and oesophagus. As it does so, copious amounts of fluid are generated which must be drained off. Breathing is tortuous. Treatment has improved, but death remains inevitable – three-quarters of patients die within a year of diagnosis. One palliative procedure involves spraying sterile talcum powder into the lung lining to prevent fluid accumulating.

Mesothelioma does not have an exclusive claim to agony – other cancer sufferers also experience cruel, prolonged death. Unlike mesothelioma sufferers, they will ask what brought on their misfortune. Was it their genetic inheritance or plain bad luck? Was some environmental factor involved, such as pollution, child-bearing or radiation from the sun?

Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.

The knowledge as to what – or, rather, who – caused your suffering must be little comfort in those final months. What might make matters a little easier is speedy and generous compensation. Yet the insurance companies representing the employers of victims in shipbuilding, construction and heavy industries have made dying men fight for every last penny. They have treated their widows with mean contempt.

Many Herald readers will already be familiar with the asbestos story. Scottish rates of diseases linked to it are higher that the rest of Britain – six times higher in the case of Clydebank. We have seen the emergence of dedicated campaigning organisations, such as the Clydebank Asbestos Group and Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

Now Des McNulty, the Labour MSP for Clydebank, has tabled a bill in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will give Scottish victims a better deal than elsewhere in Britain. The bill addresses two injustices. First, it will end the heartless absurdity whereby victims are forced to choose between a small compensation settlement while they are alive and a more generous payout to their dependants after death. The bill also intends to ensure the recent ruling in the House of Lords, which cut compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families, does not apply north of the border.
All that is required is for the executive to carve out space in its legislative programme to get this member's bill made law before the 2007 election. Ministers have offered help, and so they should. Success for Mr McNulty ought to silence the "what has Holyrood ever done for us" brigade. This is a shining example of the sort of legislation devolution was meant to enable. Putting Scotland beyond the recent House of Lords ruling will assert the sovereignty of the Edinburgh parliament as well as deliver justice to those in most need. Lawyers in the field of industrial injury, such as the solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons, believe the recent ruling goes against the principles of Scots law. Comments by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the only Scottish judge on the Lords panel, suggest he shares this view.

For those who missed the complex judgment of May 3, here is a humanised simplification. Sylvia Barker, 58, lost her husband, Vernon, to mesothelioma in 1996. He was 57 and, like all victims, suffered terribly. Mrs Barker had to fight long and hard for her entitlement. She finally received £152,000 three years ago.

Mr Barker had more than one employer who exposed him to asbestos. The Lords accepted the insurers' argument that blame should be apportioned between all the "guilty" companies. This means the pay-out is substantially reduced unless a case can be upheld against each employer. Even if the claimant succeeds in doing this, some of the former employers' insurance companies may be insolvent, so reducing the overall amount paid.

The judgment will save the insurance companies billions. Its timing is uncanny. The next 10-15 years will see asbestos-related diseases rise in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and Japan. As well as mesothelioma, these include asbestosis, characterised by a fibrous thickening of the lung. By 2020, deaths will reach 10,000 a year in the UK alone.

It is not the first time insurers have tried to avoid responsibility through recourse to legal technicality. In 2002, they tried to stop all payments using the shared liability argument. Accepting that a single fibre can trigger mesothelioma, they argued that nobody could be held responsible if a number of employees used dangerous asbestos, as you cannot prove where the fibre was inhaled. This argument was thrown out in 2002, so why uphold it this month?

Lord Rodger was the one dissenting voice, and his comments in the written judgment have a moral lucidity that should inspire Des McNulty to drive through his bill. Rodger highlights the absurdity of the ruling by quoting Viscount Dunedin, the distinguished judge who served as secretary of state for Scotland in the Balfour government. In a ruling in 1931, Dunedin raised the hypothetical case of two dogs who had worried a sheep to death. He asked: "Would we then have to hold that each dog had half-killed the sheep?"

Developing Dunedin's allegory, Lord Rodger said it was "simply unthinkable" that "defendant A one-fifth killed the victim of mesothelioma, defendant B one-quarter killed him, defendant C 40% killed him and so forth". Death by mesothelioma, he says, is indivisible. He agrees it may seem rough justice when one "wrongdoer" – the employer – has to pick up the tab for another. But the solution cannot mean passing the burden on to the victim, who is the innocent party.

Widowed Sylvia Barker made the same point in more emotional language. "These people took away Vernon's life," she said. "They admitted they should have protected him from asbestos. I cannot understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they've done."

Mrs Barker lives in Wales and cannot benefit from any changes to the law here. But success for McNulty's bill will surely put pressure on Westminster to do something to right the wrong in other parts of Britain. Perhaps we can then turn our attention to the developing world, where asbestos use is, paradoxically, increasing. In Bangladesh, impoverished ship-breakers handle up to six tons of the stuff for every rusting hulk they dismantle. Often they recycle it for use in other industries, by yet more unprotected workers. As our grim epidemic approaches its peak, the seeds of another are sown.
email author Malignant pleural mesothelioma kills someone every five hours in this country. It is an epidemic of which most people are ignorant. All cancer is awful, but this one is particularly unforgiving and painful.

The tumour grows rapidly in the lining of the lung, eventually invading the diaphragm, chest wall, muscles, ribs, heart and oesophagus. As it does so, copious amounts of fluid are generated which must be drained off. Breathing is tortuous. Treatment has improved, but death remains inevitable – three-quarters of patients die within a year of diagnosis. One palliative procedure involves spraying sterile talcum powder into the lung lining to prevent fluid accumulating.

Mesothelioma does not have an exclusive claim to agony – other cancer sufferers also experience cruel, prolonged death. Unlike mesothelioma sufferers, they will ask what brought on their misfortune. Was it their genetic inheritance or plain bad luck? Was some environmental factor involved, such as pollution, child-bearing or radiation from the sun?

Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.

The knowledge as to what – or, rather, who – caused your suffering must be little comfort in those final months. What might make matters a little easier is speedy and generous compensation. Yet the insurance companies representing the employers of victims in shipbuilding, construction and heavy industries have made dying men fight for every last penny. They have treated their widows with mean contempt.

Many Herald readers will already be familiar with the asbestos story. Scottish rates of diseases linked to it are higher that the rest of Britain – six times higher in the case of Clydebank. We have seen the emergence of dedicated campaigning organisations, such as the Clydebank Asbestos Group and Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

Now Des McNulty, the Labour MSP for Clydebank, has tabled a bill in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will give Scottish victims a better deal than elsewhere in Britain. The bill addresses two injustices. First, it will end the heartless absurdity whereby victims are forced to choose between a small compensation settlement while they are alive and a more generous payout to their dependants after death. The bill also intends to ensure the recent ruling in the House of Lords, which cut compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families, does not apply north of the border.
All that is required is for the executive to carve out space in its legislative programme to get this member's bill made law before the 2007 election. Ministers have offered help, and so they should. Success for Mr McNulty ought to silence the "what has Holyrood ever done for us" brigade. This is a shining example of the sort of legislation devolution was meant to enable. Putting Scotland beyond the recent House of Lords ruling will assert the sovereignty of the Edinburgh parliament as well as deliver justice to those in most need. Lawyers in the field of industrial injury, such as the solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons, believe the recent ruling goes against the principles of Scots law. Comments by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the only Scottish judge on the Lords panel, suggest he shares this view.

For those who missed the complex judgment of May 3, here is a humanised simplification. Sylvia Barker, 58, lost her husband, Vernon, to mesothelioma in 1996. He was 57 and, like all victims, suffered terribly. Mrs Barker had to fight long and hard for her entitlement. She finally received £152,000 three years ago.

Mr Barker had more than one employer who exposed him to asbestos. The Lords accepted the insurers' argument that blame should be apportioned between all the "guilty" companies. This means the pay-out is substantially reduced unless a case can be upheld against each employer. Even if the claimant succeeds in doing this, some of the former employers' insurance companies may be insolvent, so reducing the overall amount paid.

The judgment will save the insurance companies billions. Its timing is uncanny. The next 10-15 years will see asbestos-related diseases rise in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and Japan. As well as mesothelioma, these include asbestosis, characterised by a fibrous thickening of the lung. By 2020, deaths will reach 10,000 a year in the UK alone.

It is not the first time insurers have tried to avoid responsibility through recourse to legal technicality. In 2002, they tried to stop all payments using the shared liability argument. Accepting that a single fibre can trigger mesothelioma, they argued that nobody could be held responsible if a number of employees used dangerous asbestos, as you cannot prove where the fibre was inhaled. This argument was thrown out in 2002, so why uphold it this month?

Lord Rodger was the one dissenting voice, and his comments in the written judgment have a moral lucidity that should inspire Des McNulty to drive through his bill. Rodger highlights the absurdity of the ruling by quoting Viscount Dunedin, the distinguished judge who served as secretary of state for Scotland in the Balfour government. In a ruling in 1931, Dunedin raised the hypothetical case of two dogs who had worried a sheep to death. He asked: "Would we then have to hold that each dog had half-killed the sheep?"

Developing Dunedin's allegory, Lord Rodger said it was "simply unthinkable" that "defendant A one-fifth killed the victim of mesothelioma, defendant B one-quarter killed him, defendant C 40% killed him and so forth". Death by mesothelioma, he says, is indivisible. He agrees it may seem rough justice when one "wrongdoer" – the employer – has to pick up the tab for another. But the solution cannot mean passing the burden on to the victim, who is the innocent party.

Widowed Sylvia Barker made the same point in more emotional language. "These people took away Vernon's life," she said. "They admitted they should have protected him from asbestos. I cannot understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they've done."

Mrs Barker lives in Wales and cannot benefit from any changes to the law here. But success for McNulty's bill will surely put pressure on Westminster to do something to right the wrong in other parts of Britain. Perhaps we can then turn our attention to the developing world, where asbestos use is, paradoxically, increasing. In Bangladesh, impoverished ship-breakers handle up to six tons of the stuff for every rusting hulk they dismantle. Often they recycle it for use in other industries, by yet more unprotected workers. As our grim epidemic approaches its peak, the seeds of another are sown.
email author Malignant pleural mesothelioma kills someone every five hours in this country. It is an epidemic of which most people are ignorant. All cancer is awful, but this one is particularly unforgiving and painful.

The tumour grows rapidly in the lining of the lung, eventually invading the diaphragm, chest wall, muscles, ribs, heart and oesophagus. As it does so, copious amounts of fluid are generated which must be drained off. Breathing is tortuous. Treatment has improved, but death remains inevitable – three-quarters of patients die within a year of diagnosis. One palliative procedure involves spraying sterile talcum powder into the lung lining to prevent fluid accumulating.

Mesothelioma does not have an exclusive claim to agony – other cancer sufferers also experience cruel, prolonged death. Unlike mesothelioma sufferers, they will ask what brought on their misfortune. Was it their genetic inheritance or plain bad luck? Was some environmental factor involved, such as pollution, child-bearing or radiation from the sun?

Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.

The knowledge as to what – or, rather, who – caused your suffering must be little comfort in those final months. What might make matters a little easier is speedy and generous compensation. Yet the insurance companies representing the employers of victims in shipbuilding, construction and heavy industries have made dying men fight for every last penny. They have treated their widows with mean contempt.

Many Herald readers will already be familiar with the asbestos story. Scottish rates of diseases linked to it are higher that the rest of Britain – six times higher in the case of Clydebank. We have seen the emergence of dedicated campaigning organisations, such as the Clydebank Asbestos Group and Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

Now Des McNulty, the Labour MSP for Clydebank, has tabled a bill in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will give Scottish victims a better deal than elsewhere in Britain. The bill addresses two injustices. First, it will end the heartless absurdity whereby victims are forced to choose between a small compensation settlement while they are alive and a more generous payout to their dependants after death. The bill also intends to ensure the recent ruling in the House of Lords, which cut compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families, does not apply north of the border.
All that is required is for the executive to carve out space in its legislative programme to get this member's bill made law before the 2007 election. Ministers have offered help, and so they should. Success for Mr McNulty ought to silence the "what has Holyrood ever done for us" brigade. This is a shining example of the sort of legislation devolution was meant to enable. Putting Scotland beyond the recent House of Lords ruling will assert the sovereignty of the Edinburgh parliament as well as deliver justice to those in most need. Lawyers in the field of industrial injury, such as the solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons, believe the recent ruling goes against the principles of Scots law. Comments by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the only Scottish judge on the Lords panel, suggest he shares this view.

For those who missed the complex judgment of May 3, here is a humanised simplification. Sylvia Barker, 58, lost her husband, Vernon, to mesothelioma in 1996. He was 57 and, like all victims, suffered terribly. Mrs Barker had to fight long and hard for her entitlement. She finally received £152,000 three years ago.

Mr Barker had more than one employer who exposed him to asbestos. The Lords accepted the insurers' argument that blame should be apportioned between all the "guilty" companies. This means the pay-out is substantially reduced unless a case can be upheld against each employer. Even if the claimant succeeds in doing this, some of the former employers' insurance companies may be insolvent, so reducing the overall amount paid.

The judgment will save the insurance companies billions. Its timing is uncanny. The next 10-15 years will see asbestos-related diseases rise in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and Japan. As well as mesothelioma, these include asbestosis, characterised by a fibrous thickening of the lung. By 2020, deaths will reach 10,000 a year in the UK alone.

It is not the first time insurers have tried to avoid responsibility through recourse to legal technicality. In 2002, they tried to stop all payments using the shared liability argument. Accepting that a single fibre can trigger mesothelioma, they argued that nobody could be held responsible if a number of employees used dangerous asbestos, as you cannot prove where the fibre was inhaled. This argument was thrown out in 2002, so why uphold it this month?

Lord Rodger was the one dissenting voice, and his comments in the written judgment have a moral lucidity that should inspire Des McNulty to drive through his bill. Rodger highlights the absurdity of the ruling by quoting Viscount Dunedin, the distinguished judge who served as secretary of state for Scotland in the Balfour government. In a ruling in 1931, Dunedin raised the hypothetical case of two dogs who had worried a sheep to death. He asked: "Would we then have to hold that each dog had half-killed the sheep?"

Developing Dunedin's allegory, Lord Rodger said it was "simply unthinkable" that "defendant A one-fifth killed the victim of mesothelioma, defendant B one-quarter killed him, defendant C 40% killed him and so forth". Death by mesothelioma, he says, is indivisible. He agrees it may seem rough justice when one "wrongdoer" – the employer – has to pick up the tab for another. But the solution cannot mean passing the burden on to the victim, who is the innocent party.

Widowed Sylvia Barker made the same point in more emotional language. "These people took away Vernon's life," she said. "They admitted they should have protected him from asbestos. I cannot understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they've done."

Mrs Barker lives in Wales and cannot benefit from any changes to the law here. But success for McNulty's bill will surely put pressure on Westminster to do something to right the wrong in other parts of Britain. Perhaps we can then turn our attention to the developing world, where asbestos use is, paradoxically, increasing. In Bangladesh, impoverished ship-breakers handle up to six tons of the stuff for every rusting hulk they dismantle. Often they recycle it for use in other industries, by yet more unprotected workers. As our grim epidemic approaches its peak, the seeds of another are sown.
email author Malignant pleural mesothelioma kills someone every five hours in this country. It is an epidemic of which most people are ignorant. All cancer is awful, but this one is particularly unforgiving and painful.

The tumour grows rapidly in the lining of the lung, eventually invading the diaphragm, chest wall, muscles, ribs, heart and oesophagus. As it does so, copious amounts of fluid are generated which must be drained off. Breathing is tortuous. Treatment has improved, but death remains inevitable – three-quarters of patients die within a year of diagnosis. One palliative procedure involves spraying sterile talcum powder into the lung lining to prevent fluid accumulating.

Mesothelioma does not have an exclusive claim to agony – other cancer sufferers also experience cruel, prolonged death. Unlike mesothelioma sufferers, they will ask what brought on their misfortune. Was it their genetic inheritance or plain bad luck? Was some environmental factor involved, such as pollution, child-bearing or radiation from the sun?

Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.

The knowledge as to what – or, rather, who – caused your suffering must be little comfort in those final months. What might make matters a little easier is speedy and generous compensation. Yet the insurance companies representing the employers of victims in shipbuilding, construction and heavy industries have made dying men fight for every last penny. They have treated their widows with mean contempt.

Many Herald readers will already be familiar with the asbestos story. Scottish rates of diseases linked to it are higher that the rest of Britain – six times higher in the case of Clydebank. We have seen the emergence of dedicated campaigning organisations, such as the Clydebank Asbestos Group and Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

Now Des McNulty, the Labour MSP for Clydebank, has tabled a bill in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will give Scottish victims a better deal than elsewhere in Britain. The bill addresses two injustices. First, it will end the heartless absurdity whereby victims are forced to choose between a small compensation settlement while they are alive and a more generous payout to their dependants after death. The bill also intends to ensure the recent ruling in the House of Lords, which cut compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families, does not apply north of the border.
All that is required is for the executive to carve out space in its legislative programme to get this member's bill made law before the 2007 election. Ministers have offered help, and so they should. Success for Mr McNulty ought to silence the "what has Holyrood ever done for us" brigade. This is a shining example of the sort of legislation devolution was meant to enable. Putting Scotland beyond the recent House of Lords ruling will assert the sovereignty of the Edinburgh parliament as well as deliver justice to those in most need. Lawyers in the field of industrial injury, such as the solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons, believe the recent ruling goes against the principles of Scots law. Comments by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the only Scottish judge on the Lords panel, suggest he shares this view.

For those who missed the complex judgment of May 3, here is a humanised simplification. Sylvia Barker, 58, lost her husband, Vernon, to mesothelioma in 1996. He was 57 and, like all victims, suffered terribly. Mrs Barker had to fight long and hard for her entitlement. She finally received £152,000 three years ago.

Mr Barker had more than one employer who exposed him to asbestos. The Lords accepted the insurers' argument that blame should be apportioned between all the "guilty" companies. This means the pay-out is substantially reduced unless a case can be upheld against each employer. Even if the claimant succeeds in doing this, some of the former employers' insurance companies may be insolvent, so reducing the overall amount paid.

The judgment will save the insurance companies billions. Its timing is uncanny. The next 10-15 years will see asbestos-related diseases rise in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and Japan. As well as mesothelioma, these include asbestosis, characterised by a fibrous thickening of the lung. By 2020, deaths will reach 10,000 a year in the UK alone.

It is not the first time insurers have tried to avoid responsibility through recourse to legal technicality. In 2002, they tried to stop all payments using the shared liability argument. Accepting that a single fibre can trigger mesothelioma, they argued that nobody could be held responsible if a number of employees used dangerous asbestos, as you cannot prove where the fibre was inhaled. This argument was thrown out in 2002, so why uphold it this month?

Lord Rodger was the one dissenting voice, and his comments in the written judgment have a moral lucidity that should inspire Des McNulty to drive through his bill. Rodger highlights the absurdity of the ruling by quoting Viscount Dunedin, the distinguished judge who served as secretary of state for Scotland in the Balfour government. In a ruling in 1931, Dunedin raised the hypothetical case of two dogs who had worried a sheep to death. He asked: "Would we then have to hold that each dog had half-killed the sheep?"

Developing Dunedin's allegory, Lord Rodger said it was "simply unthinkable" that "defendant A one-fifth killed the victim of mesothelioma, defendant B one-quarter killed him, defendant C 40% killed him and so forth". Death by mesothelioma, he says, is indivisible. He agrees it may seem rough justice when one "wrongdoer" – the employer – has to pick up the tab for another. But the solution cannot mean passing the burden on to the victim, who is the innocent party.

Widowed Sylvia Barker made the same point in more emotional language. "These people took away Vernon's life," she said. "They admitted they should have protected him from asbestos. I cannot understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they've done."

Mrs Barker lives in Wales and cannot benefit from any changes to the law here. But success for McNulty's bill will surely put pressure on Westminster to do something to right the wrong in other parts of Britain. Perhaps we can then turn our attention to the developing world, where asbestos use is, paradoxically, increasing. In Bangladesh, impoverished ship-breakers handle up to six tons of the stuff for every rusting hulk they dismantle. Often they recycle it for use in other industries, by yet more unprotected workers. As our grim epidemic approaches its peak, the seeds of another are sown.
email author Malignant pleural mesothelioma kills someone every five hours in this country. It is an epidemic of which most people are ignorant. All cancer is awful, but this one is particularly unforgiving and painful.

The tumour grows rapidly in the lining of the lung, eventually invading the diaphragm, chest wall, muscles, ribs, heart and oesophagus. As it does so, copious amounts of fluid are generated which must be drained off. Breathing is tortuous. Treatment has improved, but death remains inevitable – three-quarters of patients die within a year of diagnosis. One palliative procedure involves spraying sterile talcum powder into the lung lining to prevent fluid accumulating.

Mesothelioma does not have an exclusive claim to agony – other cancer sufferers also experience cruel, prolonged death. Unlike mesothelioma sufferers, they will ask what brought on their misfortune. Was it their genetic inheritance or plain bad luck? Was some environmental factor involved, such as pollution, child-bearing or radiation from the sun?

Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.

The knowledge as to what – or, rather, who – caused your suffering must be little comfort in those final months. What might make matters a little easier is speedy and generous compensation. Yet the insurance companies representing the employers of victims in shipbuilding, construction and heavy industries have made dying men fight for every last penny. They have treated their widows with mean contempt.

Many Herald readers will already be familiar with the asbestos story. Scottish rates of diseases linked to it are higher that the rest of Britain – six times higher in the case of Clydebank. We have seen the emergence of dedicated campaigning organisations, such as the Clydebank Asbestos Group and Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

Now Des McNulty, the Labour MSP for Clydebank, has tabled a bill in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will give Scottish victims a better deal than elsewhere in Britain. The bill addresses two injustices. First, it will end the heartless absurdity whereby victims are forced to choose between a small compensation settlement while they are alive and a more generous payout to their dependants after death. The bill also intends to ensure the recent ruling in the House of Lords, which cut compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families, does not apply north of the border.
All that is required is for the executive to carve out space in its legislative programme to get this member's bill made law before the 2007 election. Ministers have offered help, and so they should. Success for Mr McNulty ought to silence the "what has Holyrood ever done for us" brigade. This is a shining example of the sort of legislation devolution was meant to enable. Putting Scotland beyond the recent House of Lords ruling will assert the sovereignty of the Edinburgh parliament as well as deliver justice to those in most need. Lawyers in the field of industrial injury, such as the solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons, believe the recent ruling goes against the principles of Scots law. Comments by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, the only Scottish judge on the Lords panel, suggest he shares this view.

For those who missed the complex judgment of May 3, here is a humanised simplification. Sylvia Barker, 58, lost her husband, Vernon, to mesothelioma in 1996. He was 57 and, like all victims, suffered terribly. Mrs Barker had to fight long and hard for her entitlement. She finally received £152,000 three years ago.

Mr Barker had more than one employer who exposed him to asbestos. The Lords accepted the insurers' argument that blame should be apportioned between all the "guilty" companies. This means the pay-out is substantially reduced unless a case can be upheld against each employer. Even if the claimant succeeds in doing this, some of the former employers' insurance companies may be insolvent, so reducing the overall amount paid.

The judgment will save the insurance companies billions. Its timing is uncanny. The next 10-15 years will see asbestos-related diseases rise in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and Japan. As well as mesothelioma, these include asbestosis, characterised by a fibrous thickening of the lung. By 2020, deaths will reach 10,000 a year in the UK alone.

It is not the first time insurers have tried to avoid responsibility through recourse to legal technicality. In 2002, they tried to stop all payments using the shared liability argument. Accepting that a single fibre can trigger mesothelioma, they argued that nobody could be held responsible if a number of employees used dangerous asbestos, as you cannot prove where the fibre was inhaled. This argument was thrown out in 2002, so why uphold it this month?

Lord Rodger was the one dissenting voice, and his comments in the written judgment have a moral lucidity that should inspire Des McNulty to drive through his bill. Rodger highlights the absurdity of the ruling by quoting Viscount Dunedin, the distinguished judge who served as secretary of state for Scotland in the Balfour government. In a ruling in 1931, Dunedin raised the hypothetical case of two dogs who had worried a sheep to death. He asked: "Would we then have to hold that each dog had half-killed the sheep?"

Developing Dunedin's allegory, Lord Rodger said it was "simply unthinkable" that "defendant A one-fifth killed the victim of mesothelioma, defendant B one-quarter killed him, defendant C 40% killed him and so forth". Death by mesothelioma, he says, is indivisible. He agrees it may seem rough justice when one "wrongdoer" – the employer – has to pick up the tab for another. But the solution cannot mean passing the burden on to the victim, who is the innocent party.

Widowed Sylvia Barker made the same point in more emotional language. "These people took away Vernon's life," she said. "They admitted they should have protected him from asbestos. I cannot understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they've done."

Mrs Barker lives in Wales and cannot benefit from any changes to the law here

But success for McNulty's bill will surely put pressure on Westminster to do something to right the wrong in other parts of Britain. Perhaps we can then turn our attention to the developing world, where asbestos use is, paradoxically, increasing. In Bangladesh, impoverished ship-breakers handle up to six tons of the stuff for every rusting hulk they dismantle. Often they recycle it for use in other industries, by yet more unprotected workers. As our grim epidemic approaches its peak, the seeds of another are sown.