*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in South Australia.
When you suffer from a terminal condition, such as mesothelioma, medical bills can be extensive and can include hospital admissions, specialist appointments, scans and treatment, including radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These medical bills can be a source of financial pressure and stress at what is already an extremely difficult time.
Whenever you make a claim for compensation for an injury, including mesothelioma, included in that claim for compensation is the cost of your past and your future medical expenses.
If you suffer from mesothelioma, your doctors may also recommend that you undergo a type of treatment called immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a new form of cancer treatment which is being recommended widely by clinicians, including for treatment of mesothelioma. Immunotherapy treatments have been approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for the treatment of a number of cancers, but unfortunately at this stage, not for the treatment of mesothelioma. This means that if a person suffers from mesothelioma, and their doctor recommends immunotherapy, if the sufferer is unable to participate in a clinical trial they must pay out of pocket for the treatment themselves. In the absence of PBS funding, this can add up to tens of thousands of dollars, or more.
For many years however, defendants in dust diseases cases, including James Hardie, refused to fund the cost of immunotherapy treatment.
This changed first in the matter of Latz v Amaca Pty Limited (formerly James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited). James Hardie argued at trial that it was not required to pay any portion of Mr Latz’s future immunotherapy costs. James Hardie made this argument on the basis that the treatment was experimental and should not be funded by them.
Turner Freeman successfully argued on behalf of Mr Latz that he should be entitled to claim a portion the future out of pocket cost of the immunotherapy treatment, on the basis that there was a chance that Mr Latz would go on in the future to have treatment, and that the cost of immunotherapy was a reasonable cost to claim based on the known science.
The decision in Latz represents the first time the future cost of immunotherapy was awarded to a person suffering from mesothelioma by a Court in Australia.
Two years later, James Hardie argued again against paying the cost of immunotherapy treatment in the matter of Werfel v Amaca Pty Limited (formerly James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited). In that case, Mr Werfel had already undergone significant treatment for his condition of mesothelioma, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Turner Freeman successfully argued that Mr Werfel was much more likely than Mr Latz to undergo immunotherapy treatment in the future, given the treatment that he had already undergone. The Court agreed, and Mr Werfel was awarded the full cost of the immunotherapy treatment.
The decisions of Latz and Werfel mean that people suffering from mesothelioma can feel a greater sense of security in their ability to fund future medical treatment.
If you suffer from mesothelioma and make a claim for compensation, we will be sure to contact to your treating doctors and find out from them whether immunotherapy could be of benefit to you, and if so, the likely cost to you of the treatment. We will then make sure that the future cost of the treatment is included in the claim for compensation.
If you suffer from mesothelioma and have already started immunotherapy treatment and you are paying for it yourself, we are able to claim back the cost of the treatment as part of the claim.
If you suffer from mesothelioma and want to speak to one of our specialist dust diseases lawyers, please contact our office on 08 8213 1000 for an obligation free discussion.