This is the story of a son’s journey to achieve justice and closure following the death of his father from industrial disease and corporate negligence. As a working class man from Romford, Graham describes his unconventional path to becoming a doctor after a turbulent childhood of maternal illness, a spell in a
children’s home, fostering with relatives and the final badge of under-achievement, 11 plus failure.
During his medical training, Graham’s father died after developing disseminated cancer. There were strong grounds for suspecting occupational exposure to asbestos as the cause but, to the family’s dismay, this diagnosis failed to be recognised at post-mortem. Two of Graham’s uncles who had worked alongside his father as boiler coverers before the war suffered a similar fate but were correctly diagnosed with asbestos induced tumours and their families received appropriate compensation.
After a decade spent becoming a cancer and leukaemia specialist, and with the help of a pathologist colleague, the cause of Graham’s father’s death was re-visited and the correct diagnosis of mesothelioma secondary to asbestos was finally confirmed. A case was eventually brought to the High Court against his former employer, the multinational conglomerate, Turner and Newall, and the claim was successful with the award of substantial damages.
This story highlights the corporate deceit and indifference shown by the industry towards the health of their workers and how the press exposure of Graham’s family’s tragedy helped contribute towards the eventual demise of the company. The lessons regarding the wider social responsibility of corporations and the importance of industrial health and safety regulations are still being learnt today.
Graham Standen lives in Flax Bourton, Bristol and is now retired from his post as a Consultant Haematologist at Bristol Royal Infirmary since 2013.