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August 28, 2008

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Government refused compensation to MP who died of mesothelioma

John MacDougall, the Labour MP who died on 13 August at the age of 60, was in the process of suing the government for refusing to pay compensation for the illness that killed him.

The former MP for the Fife town of Glenrothes had launched a court action against the Ministry of Defence late last year after his request for a £300,000 payout was refused.

MacDougall had been suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs that he believed had been contracted a result of exposure to asbestos while working at the Royal Naval dockyards in Rosyth in the 1960s and 1970s. The incurable disease commonly manifests itself 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.

Scott Brady, MacDougall’s parliamentary researcher and friend, told the Sunday Times it was “preposterous” that compensation was not paid out until after people with mesothelioma had died. “The case is not yet settled and to me it is absurd that, with a disease that has a median survival rate of nine months, companies can be given over a year to make a compensation offer,” he said.

Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos disease litigation unit at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, told SHP: “The fact that an MP has developed mesothelioma shows it is no respecter of status or occupation. We are now seeing many professional people who were not previously considered to be at risk, such as teachers, nurses, doctors and dentists, developing the disease. Mr MacDougall’s death should act as a wake-up call to the government.”

A new compensation scheme, due to be launched in October this year, aims to extend and speed up compensation paid to sufferers who were not previously eligible.

The chairperson of support group Asbestos Action Tayside, Ian Babbs, said he thought the scheme was a “slight move in the right direction”, but stressed that asbestos must be removed from the workplace altogether. He added: “We are going to see asbestos-related disease right across the board.”

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