In California, an elderly married couple, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were both diagnosed with a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Pilliods had the same type of cancer; the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Alva was diagnosed in 2011 with the disease that had spread from his bones to his pelvis while Alberta was diagnosed with the cancer in 2015 when the disease affected her brain.
The couple, both in their 70s, started using the herbicide Roundup in the 1970s and continued using it until only a few years ago. They sued the manufacturer of the herbicide for failing to warn them of its cancer. The couple asked court to hold the manufacturer of the herbicide liable for their illness because scientific evidence showed that the herbicides can cause cancer and the manufacturer failed to properly warn them of that particular risk.
Cancer, also known as a malignant tumour, is a disease in which cells of the body multiply abnormally and without control. The cells are almost always of a particular group and may invade the adjacent tissues or spread to organs such as the liver, brain, bones or kidney through blood, the lymphatic system or other means. The cancer cells in these organs interfere with their normal function, leading to the failure of these organs.
Cancers may cause severe bleeding when the cells grow into the adjacent tissue, including major blood vessels. This is often fatal. The cancer cells may also alter the normal functioning of the body and cause abnormal clotting of the blood. Cancer cells may spread to the bone marrow and interfere with the normal blood formation.
Types and treatment
There are different types of cancers, depending on the tissue of origin. The common cancers are of breast, cervix, prostate, oesophagus, lungs, ovary, uterus, liver, skin, bone, blood and lymphoid tissue, including lymph nodes. Cancers can, however, virtually arise from any part of the body.
Cancers that start in the lymph nodes are known as lymphomas. There are two types of these cancers, the Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. The safety of the herbicide “Roundup” has been at the centre of much litigation for personal injury, and specifically, its association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Cancer treatment is very expensive and has severe side effects. When the cancer is diagnosed early, there are high chances that it can be completely cured. However, in most cases, diagnosis is late, when the disease is advanced and the outcome of treatment is, as a result, poor. Response to treatment also depends on the type of cancer; some cancers respond quite well to treatment.
Removing the cancerous organs by means of a medical operation is one way of treating cancers. Others are managed using radiotherapy or drugs (chemotherapy) or a combination of all these. Other treatment modalities include hormonal treatment and immune therapy.
The couple’s lawyer told court that there was ample evidence of cancer concerns and rather than warn customers of the risks, the manufacturer engaged in 45 years of deceptive tactics that manipulated the scientific record about the dangers of its products. Evidence brought out in the case included numerous scientific studies that showed what the lawyers said was proof that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The lawyers also presented to court many internal communications of the manufacturer that showed that the manufacturer had intentionally manipulated the public record to hide the cancer risks of the chemical.
The lawyer told court that the manufacturer buried studies that found harm with its products and promoted ghostwritten studies that promoted safety, engaging in conduct that was reprehensible.
The manufacturers of the herbicide maintained that there was no valid evidence of cancer causation associated with its herbicides. A medical hematologist-oncologist, testifying for the manufacturer, told court that epidemiological data does not show a valid association between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The medical expert said both Alva and Alberta had a history of medical problems and weakened immune systems, which likely led to their cancers. The expert further agreed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, was not likely to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans.
Presently, there are more than 13,400 persons who have taken the manufacturer of the herbicide to court. All these persons are either cancer victims or related to cancer victims.
TO BE CONTINUED