Why Mesothelioma Patients Need an Advance Care Directive

mesothelioma patientsMesothelioma patients did not choose to be exposed to asbestos and develop this disease. But every mesothelioma patient can and should choose the kinds of medical care they wish to receive as the disease progresses.

By deciding your options early, you can ensure your quality of life and avoid having your family guess your wishes or make critical medical care decisions for you under stress.

California law provides individuals a way to make their health care wishes known and considered when they become unable to make these decisions themselves. The Advanced Health Care Directive is the legal document that allows patients to make their end-of-life care choices ahead of time.

The Two Parts of the California Advance Care Directive

There are two basic kinds of health care documents everyone with mesothelioma should have. First, you need a document naming a trusted person to direct your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. This document is known as a durable power of attorney for health care. It does not give this person the right to make legal or financial decisions for you. That is a different kind of power of attorney.

Second, you need a document that specifies the types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. This document is often known as a living will.

In California, these two documents are combined into a single form called an advance health care directive.

Writing an advance care directive may be difficult. You need to:

  • Know and understand your treatment options
  • Decide future treatment options you may want
  • Discuss your choices with your family

Although this document does not need to be created by an attorney, you should already be working with an attorney to prepare an estate plan, usually including a family trust, and that attorney should include preparation of these forms as part of the services provided.

Why Mesothelioma Patients Also Need a POLST

Mesothelioma patients also need to complete a one-page document called the POLST, short for Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. You can request one from your doctor’s office.

The decisions documented on the POLST form include whether to:

  • Attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation,
  • Administer antibiotics and IV fluids,
  • Use a ventilator to help with breathing, and
  • Provide artificial nutrition by tube.

Does the POLST form replace the Advance Care Directive?

The POLST form supplements advance care directive and is not intended to replace it. It is a medical order and can be used by paramedics and other first responders. It ensures that the preferences expressed in the advance care directive are actually carried out. You also need an Advance Directive to appoint a legal health care decision-maker.

Kazan Law Partner Gordon Greenwood Speaks At Martin Luther King Event

Martin Luther King Day took on special significance for our firm this year. Kazan Law partner Gordon Greenwood was invited to his Mississippi hometown to be the keynote speaker at an event honoring Dr. King.

“As I look out over this audience today I see a lot of people who poured a lot of life into me and who are completely responsible for everything that I have ever accomplished in my life, and it is good to be invited to a lot of different places, it’s great to be invited home,” Gordon told the audience.

Annual Event Attracts Growing Crowds

Over 300 people gathered for the Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP’s 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Prayer Breakfast on January 19. The annual event, which started with just a few members of the Boys and Girls club in Meridian, had to be moved from Meridian’s City Hall to a larger venue. Gordon Greenwood, who has been with our firm for 15 years, is a Meridian native and graduate of Meridian High School.

Also present was Meridian resident Angie Lewis who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama on behalf of her father James Chaney. Chaney, along with Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were Mississippi Civil Rights workers who were murdered in 1964. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.

Gordon Greenwood Encourages Self-Motivation

Gordon Greenwood, in his keynote address “Looking Back to Move Forward”, called on the community to follow Dr. King’s example of being self-motivated in achieving their goals.

“Somehow, we got this idea that the answer lies outside of us. We protest to the school board. Then we go to the supervisor: he must not be doing his job. Then we complain about the mayor, he must not be doing his job. We even complain about the president, Barack Obama ain’t doing his job. We look everywhere but at the man in the mirror,” he told the crowd.

“The babies born today at Rush and Anderson today are born with the same cry as the babies who were born at Matty Hersee,” Greenwood, a 1980 graduate of Meridian High School, told the crowd referring to past and current local hospitals. “It is a cry for motivation. It is a cry for direction, and if we do not answer it, the streets will.”

The breakfast concluded after a reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a prayer by NAACP President Randle Jennings.

“We were truly blessed by the speech given to the community by Gordon Greenwood,” Jennings said. “More than anything, I hope we can build a bridge from this. We were challenged by Mr. Greenwood to build and strengthen our community.”

New Global Mesothelioma Case Epidemic Reported

mesothelioma caseA new study reports that the number of mesothelioma cases is on the rise globally.   Italian researchers who meticulously compiled and analyzed international mesothelioma facts say it has reached epidemic proportions in parts of the world and is unlikely to slow down.

The new mesothelioma case trend surprisingly turned up in several European countries. The report, published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found the highest number of mesothelioma cases in the UK, The Netherlands, Malta and Belgium as well as in Australia and New Zealand. They also found that in many countries data on mesothelioma is not collected and no mesothelioma facts or statistics were available.

The number of mesothelioma deaths reported in the UK increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,360 in 2010, with about 3.6 cases per 100,000 men and 0.5 per 100,000 women. The United States in comparison ranked in the middle range of the countries studied. In the period 2003-2008 over 3000 cases were diagnosed each year, with a high of 3284 in 2005. The incidence was 1.93 per 100,000 among men and 0.41 among women.

Mesothelioma is a lethal cancer caused by being exposed to asbestos. It may take decades for symptoms to emerge so a diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately, the average survival time of those with malignant forms of the disease is ten to fourteen months. The prognosis for a long life expectancy is not good even when symptoms appear early and treatment begins quickly.

“Asbestos has been banned in 55 countries. The inhabitants of such countries (about 1,110,000,000) correspond to 16% of the world population. This means that asbestos use continues in a large part of the world,” the researchers state.

For their report, researchers Claudio and Tommaso Bianchi of the Center for the Study of Environmental Cancer in Monfalcone, Italy studied mesothelioma case data from cancer registries around the world. They supplemented this data with information from mesothelioma researchers in other countries.

They conclude, “On the basis of global asbestos consumption in the last decades, one may predict that a further mesothelioma wave will involve large geographic areas. A lack of data does not allow an adequate assessment of the risk to be made. The epidemic of asbestos-related diseases in general and of mesothelioma in particular requires that the problem is faced in a more incisive way by health international institutions.”

San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Joins Kazan Law

Stephanie Wargo-WilsonKazan Law is proud to announce that Stephanie Wargo-Wilson has become our newest associate. As mesothelioma lawyers, we practice in a very specialized area of the law, representing the victims of asbestos exposure and their families. We fight for justice for people who do not have much in the way of money or power. That makes Stephanie a great fit for Kazan Law. She comes to us from the San Francisco Public Defender’s office where she has served as a Deputy Public Defender since 2002.

As San Francisco Deputy Public Defender, Stephanie helped defend thousands of people who could not otherwise afford an attorney. In asbestos litigation, we advocate for clients without resources and do not charge for our services until we see to it that they are compensated for the wrongs they have suffered. Stephanie’s dedication to fairness and equal justice under the law is in perfect alignment with our firm’s values.

Stephanie graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 2001 with outstanding grades. While at UCLA, she already showed her interest in justice as a board member and volunteer at the UCLA Free Clinic. During her law school years she clerked at the Los Angeles Federal Public Defender’s office. She was also an extern for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In her role as a Deputy Public Defender in San Francisco she served as:

  • Felony trial attorney, representing indigents accused in felony cases, including three strikes cases
  • Research and writing attorney, writing motions, writs and appeals and answering questions for all the attorneys in the Public Defender Office
  • Swing attorney, stepping in on short notice for attorneys out of the office to arraign new cases, interview clients, write investigation requests, and conduct preliminary hearings
  • Misdemeanor Trial Attorney, handling a large caseload that involved working with case managers and community services to manage all trial preparation for case litigation.

Stephanie lives in Oakland, the city where our office is located, with her husband, son and dog they adopted from a local animal shelter.

Your Asbestos Settlement and Avoiding Financial Risk

This is a guest post by Patrick Collins of Schultz Collins Lawson Chambers, Inc., the firm we hired to advise us on how to handle Kazan Law’s pension funds, our charitable foundation’s funds, and that some of our partners hired to advise them on personal money management.

A good monthly income from your settlement funds often requires that you put principal at risk; keeping principal safe often requires that you live on very little monthly income.

Let’s say that you have just received an asbestos settlement check for $1,000,000. Depending on your family circumstances, here are some questions that you might have:

  • How much can I spend?
  • Where should I put the money?
  • How long will the money last?

The first question is the “budget” issue; the second question is the “how-much-risk-do-I need-to-take” issue; the third question depends on your budget decision and investment strategy.

A million dollars from an asbestos settlement is a lot of money. Can it fund a lifestyle that requires a $4,000 monthly budget? Remember, each month you will need to increase the monthly budget by the rate of inflation in order to maintain your lifestyle. Also, if you put your money in a safe, principal-guaranteed, interest-earning investment like a U.S. Treasury Note or an insured CD, you will pay income tax.

In order to get a rough idea of how a “safe” investment strategy for your asbestos settlement might perform, we assumed that $1,000,000 was invested in a portfolio of short-term (6 month) U.S. Treasury Notes starting January 1, 1994. At the beginning of each month, you receive a check for $4,000 plus an adjustment for the rate of inflation. Thus, on February 1, 1994, you go to the mailbox and open a check for $4,013. By November of 2014, the check’s face value has increased to $6,407 because it takes $6,407 to buy the same amount of goods and services today that $4,000 bought in 1994.

We graph the value of the $1,000,000 fund after accounting for taxes (20% rate), inflation, and monthly withdrawals:

asbestos settlement

If the $1 million asbestos settlement could be invested in a world with no taxes or inflation, it would grow to $1,851,880. The income tax bite reduces it to $1,637,496. Inflation reduces the purchasing power to $1,019,671. This is a particularly sobering insight—after putting you money in a safe investment for approximately twenty years, the future value after inflation and taxes just about equals what you started with. You kept the money safe but earned nothing. Furthermore, this is before you start to take out your monthly check!

The chart suggests that if you are willing to (1) live on a modest monthly budget; and (2) spend down your nest egg over a twenty-year period, then you need not take much, if any, investment risk. For comparison purposes, we ran the same numbers at $5,000 per month withdrawal—the guaranteed interest and principal portfolio is fully depleted ($0.00) by January of 2012. So you ran out of money—two years too soon!

If you want to increase your monthly consumption budget; or, if you want to give a larger bequest to family, church, or charity, then you will probably need to take some investment risk. There’s no right or wrong—it’s up to you.

Of course, this example covers the period from 1994 through June 2013. It is not a guide to what might happen over the next twenty years. It shows, however, how hard it is to produce safe and substantial monthly income and keep the nest egg intact.

Asbestos Case Victim in the News

asbestos case

Michelle and Paul Zygielbaum

When we took on the asbestos case of Paul Zygielbaum, a Santa Rosa, CA engineer, 10 years ago we worked hard as we always do to race against time. Zygielbaum was diagnosed with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma and the prognosis wasn’t good.

We resolved Paul’s asbestos case. Paul and his wife Michelle generously have used some of the asbestos case settlement proceeds that we achieved for them to join with our firm’s foundation’s efforts in funding mesothelioma research. But Paul is a winner in another important way. Paul continues to survive with mesothelioma.

It hasn’t been easy. He’s had four surgeries in the last ten years. But since resolving his asbestos case, Paul has fought for more than his life. He has become an outspoken advocate for banning asbestos in the U.S. These efforts in spite of his continued illness make Paul a true winner in our eyes.

We are proud that others applaud Paul’s efforts as well. He was just featured in a major news article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article states:

He is a warrior — not just against his own cancer, but against the asbestos industry that gave it to him.


And he’s doing it while battling mesothelioma, an almost universally fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

“I’m having a little trouble right now with an inoperable tumor behind my liver,” he said matter of factly.

“This life has chosen me,” said Zygielbaum, 64. “There is no going back.”

The article goes on to review the struggle over the past decades to get Congress to ban asbestos. I myself accompanied Paul to Washington D.C. in 2006 to urge Congress to make asbestos illegal. But the industry’s profit motive and control over Congress was too powerful to get the legislation through. This is shocking in light of the fact that 60 other countries have banned asbestos and that asbestos continues to kill 10,000 Americans each year.

Although the current outlook for passing an asbestos ban with the new Congress is bleak, Paul remains upbeat.

He believes in having goals to strive for, and so he’s booked a ticket with XCOR Aerospace, a space flight company, for a coming space flight.

“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to seeing asbestos banned.”

An Important Year For Asbestos Litigation – Kazan Law Highlights From 2014

asbestos litigationThe year 2014 was an important one for favorable asbestos litigation verdicts and landmark decisions our firm was able to achieve for our clients. Our precedent-setting work will also benefit many other victims of harmful asbestos exposure and personal injury. Here are several highlights:

$11 Million Award in Wrongful Death Asbestos Litigation

The year 2014 started with January’s Alameda County $11 million verdict in a wrongful death asbestos litigation suit (Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead Meiers v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al.,) against Pneumo Abex LLC.

A prior jury had found that Pneumo Abex’s asbestos-containing brakes were defective, and that Pneumo Abex negligently, intentionally, and maliciously caused Mr. Bankhead’s fatal mesothelioma. The jury valued Emily Bankhead’s losses at $6 million, and Tammy Bankhead’s and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers’s losses at $2,500,000 each.

$5 Million Asbestos Litigation Verdict Upheld for Mesothelioma Victim

In April, a California court of appeals upheld a $5,437,882 verdict for malignant mesothelioma patient James Hellam against industrial-products supplier Crane Co. (Hellam v. Crane Co).

The appellate court held that evidence supported the finding that Crane’s gaskets and cement were defectively designed because they emitted and exposed Hellam to significant levels of toxic asbestos fibers during ordinary use. The court agreed that the jury rightly attributed Crane’s products being the cause of Hellam’s malignant mesothelioma.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s award of over $85,000 in litigation costs to Hellam and the following compensation for damages:

  • Economic damages = $937, 882.56
  • Non-economic damages = $4,500,000.00
  • Total = $5,437.882.56

Landmark Victory in Take Home Asbestos Exposure Case

In May, the California Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling that would have dismissed a take home asbestos litigation case against Pneumo Abex, a manufacturer of asbestos brakes, brought by Johnny Kesner, who was exposed to asbestos dust brought home from the Abex plant by his uncle, an employee there.  (Kesner v. Pneumo Abex, LLC).

The appellate court decision was especially significant because it is the first one to limit a previous court decision that prevented the owner of a piece of property from being held liable for harmful take home asbestos exposures that resulted from the work done on the property.

A Precedent-Setting Victory in State Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court rejected Ford Motor Company’s petition for review of a published appellate decision in favor of Kazan Law clients Patrick and Sharon Scott (Scott v. Ford Motor Company).  Mr. Scott’s mesothelioma cancer was caused by prolonged asbestos exposure from automotive brakes.

A jury awarded Patrick Scott $1.5 million in damages and legal costs against Ford in November 2012 after the trial team presented clear evidence that Ford knew of the asbestos exposure risks in their products and failed to warn Mr. Scott.

In March, a California appellate court upheld the $1.5 million judgment. Ford then tried to claim that the judgment needed further review because Ford’s headquarters are in Michigan, a state with no legal punitive damages. But in a precedent setting decision for asbestos litigation and other types of personal injury law cases, the court agreed that when a company exposes people to the risks associated with asbestos — or any other toxic substance or dangerous product — in California, a California jury has the right to apply punitive damages law to the case.

Judge Decides in Favor of Case Going to Trial

In July, an old laboratory parts catalog provided an Alameda County Superior Court judge with sufficient evidence to decide that Kazan Law clients James and Louise Leonard could take the next step in asbestos litigation.

Judge Jo-Lynne Q. Lee decided that their case Leonard v. Avantor Performance Materials, Inc., et al., could move forward to trial. At his deposition, Mr. Leonard was refused a product catalog by a product supplier to help him identify asbestos-containing parts he worked with. But when given a catalog, Mr. Leonard was able to provide the identifying information.

Exposed to Asbestos Means Time For a Medical Check-up

exposed to asbestosIf you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the time to call your doctor for a check-up is now.

Use Before You Lose Your 2014 Benefits

It’s the holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year. But it is also the end of the year. Whatever health insurance benefits you did not use this year will be gone when the clock strike midnight on December 31. You begin the New Year with a new allotment of health insurance benefits. Your health insurance entitles you to a free full physical exam every year. You paid for it through your health insurance premiums, so use it before you lose it. With most people busy shopping and celebrating, you may be pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to get scheduled now for an appointment with your doctor.

Get a Baseline Now

Another reason to hurry into the doctor’s office now before the end of the year if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, is to get a baseline of information about your health. Most asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma have a latency period of 20 to 50 years. This means that people who develop asbestos-related diseases generally don’t become ill until several decades after they have been exposed to asbestos. Although you do not have symptoms now, you should remain vigilant. Talk to your physician about your asbestos exposure. Ask about asbestos-related disease testing. Request a pulmonary function test. These tests results will provide you with a baseline or starting point against which any changes can be measured in the following years. These simple, inexpensive tests should be done every year. Start now so any declines after you’ve been exposed to asbestos can be documented if you should need to initiate an asbestos lawsuit down the road.

Annual Check-ups Are Important

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start, whether it is a disease caused by being exposed to asbestos or a different health issue. It is just part of taking good care of yourself. A medical check-up can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.”

Try to take the time to get in to see your doctor this week or next week if you can. You’ll be glad you did.

4 Great Tech Gifts for a Mesothelioma Patient

mesothelioma patientGiving the gift of technology to a mesothelioma patient now during the holidays can be a gift that will keep on giving to them for the months to come.

A Digital Photo Frame

Loading up a digital photo frame with pictures of friends, family, special occasions, or places you have visited together is a great gift idea. Your loved one could bring the frame along to treatment visits or for when they need to be hospitalized. These happy reminders of who their supporters are and what they are fighting for can’t help but to improve their spirits! Here’s an article from Consumer Reports that compares popular brands of digital photo frame.

Hand Warmers and Foot Warmers

Sometimes mesothelioma patients just can’t keep their hands and feet warm. A handy solution – hand warmers and foot warmers that you can take anywhere. These are an especially great gift for someone who is undergoing chemotherapy which can make fingers and toes especially susceptible to feeling cold. A company called warmer.com offers many options. One is Grabbers, disposable, portable hand and foot warmers. Break open one of these self-contained packets and they reportedly generate heat for as long as 8 hours.

A Kindle or a Nook

An e-reader, according to the Wikipedia definition, is a handheld electronic device designed for the purpose of reading books and magazines in digital format. Any computer or smart phone that can display text on a screen can act as an e-book reader but specialized e-book readers optimize portability, ease of use, readability, and battery life. A single e-book reader is capable of holding the digital equivalent of hundreds of printed texts with no added bulk. The entry level Kindle by Amazon or Nook from Barnes and Noble are safe bets. Many classic books are free for e-readers. Libraries also offer free access to e-books but as with real library books, they are on temporary loan.

Digital Movie Subscription

What a wonderful thing for a mesothelioma patient who can’t go out or shouldn’t be around crowds! They can watch unlimited movies on a computer or TV screen. TV shows, too. One of the biggest providers of digital movies is Netflix with over 30 million subscribers in the U.S. Other options include an Amazon Prime membership with the bonus of free shipping on Amazon shopping, or Hulu Plus which has a vast assortment of TV shows and exclusive rights to the Criterion Collection of classic and foreign films. You can buy a Netflix subscription gift card or Hulu Plus subscription gift card at stores like Target and WalMart.

Kazan Law Foundation a Top Donor for Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund

Kazan LawThrough our 40 years of practicing law as mesothelioma lawyers at Kazan Law, all of us have seen heartbreak up close. It stays with us. It compels us to give back. That’s why we created our firm’s foundation. Over the last 20 years we have given over $20 million in grants to a range of community, educational and civic organizations, including $6 million for mesothelioma research. This is one way we give back to the mesothelioma community whose rights we fight for as mesothelioma lawyers.

At this special time of year, when the store windows are full of glitter and glamorous expensive gifts, we at Kazan Law are acutely aware that for many people it is a challenge just to meet their basic needs for food and shelter. Seeing the abundance around them and joy during the holiday season makes their lack even more poignant. So at this time of year, we are proud to be listed as a major donor to the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. As we did last year, the Kazan Law foundation has donated $20,000 to this wonderful cause. We are proud of the work we do as mesothelioma lawyers and grateful that our success makes it possible for us to help those in need.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund provides temporary assistance to help people living in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Since 1986, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has raised more than $98 million to help thousands of Bay Area families. The Fund offers grants to help families in crisis so they can pay for housing and emergency needs. Through a network of more than 120 community service agencies, the Fund works to identify families in need and provide short-term, critical assistance grants.

Grants from the Fund can help families in any number of ways, such as paying the rent so they can stay in their home, covering a security deposit so they can transition out of a homeless shelter, or buying a wheelchair or other essential medical equipment that they couldn’t otherwise afford. In addition, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund supports food banks and distributes nearly $1 million each year to assist individuals and families who might otherwise go hungry. You can read some of their stories here.

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