Title: Gulf doctor: BP settlement won’t help my sick patients
Source: Stuart H. Smith
Date: Dec. 17, 2012
Dr. Michael Robichaux is frustrated. Since the earliest days of the Deepwater Horizon spill, Dr. Robichaux — based in Mathews, La. — has done little else besides treating fishermen, cleanup workers and coastal residents who’ve been make sick by their exposure to the oil or the toxic dispersant that was sprayed in the Gulf. In recently months, Robichaux has looked closely as the $7.8 billion settlement that’s on the table between BP and local residents and small businesses, and he believes the deal is grossly unfair to thousands suffering chronic health problems.
Before the hearing that was held before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier this fall, Dr. Robichaux filed a letter of objection to the pending settlement. His primary objections to the medical provisions of the deal are two-fold: It favors workers and others who suffered acute, short-term exposure to the spill while failing to properly acknowledge the chronic, long-term illnesses that many now face in coastal communities. What’s more, the low financial ceilings on the payments to claimants in the case won’t be nearly enough to cover medical bills that some will be facing for the rest of their lives. [...]
Dr. Robichaux wrote that he’s treated 113 patients who were exposed to toxic pollution from the BP oil spill, and about 100 of them have had severe chronic health effects, to the point that many of them are unable to work because of constant headaches or fatigue and are unable to work, relying instead on Social Security, Medicaid or other social programs. [...]
In the letter, Dr. Robichaux said he was frustrated with the medical testimony that he heard in court on behalf of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. He said that the physician advising lawyers from the PSC seemed to get their information largely over the telephone from other doctors — but it bore little resemblance to the actual patients he’s treated along the Gulf.
The result, he argues, is a settlement that not only is unfair to those seeking medical compensation but in fact creates a false record of what should be widely acknowledged as a public health crisis in the Gulf. This, he correctly notes, is a grave injustice. [...]
Published: December 19th, 2012 at 4:45 pm ET