March 18, 2009

Shift Work and Breast Cancer: A Presumptive Link?

Marcellus, a character in Shakespeare's Hamlet, muses that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark." To the contrary, there is a spirit of generosity in Denmark that is increasingly rare in this troubled world. We are dealing here with the issue of compensability of cancers that may or may not be work related. As we have discussed in previous blogs, in the states, unless cancer-suffering workers are firefighters, they are unlikely to receive comp benefits for any forms of cancer. Most doctors are reluctant to establish a definitive link between workplace exposures and cancers, even when there is compelling evidence of a connection.

Denmark has a different take on the matter.

Thirty-seven women in Denmark have won the right to compensation after claiming that their breast cancer was linked to their long-term (20 plus years) of night shift work. (We have blogged the possible link between shift work and cancer here.) The state-run disability agency received 75 applications for compensation in 2008. They awarded benefits in 37 cases, as they could find no other significant factors that might explain the development of breast cancer.

Denmark might even take this one step further: they are considering whether to establish the presumption that breast cancer is an occupational illness. In other words, just as many firefighters with cancer in America are presumed to have a work-related condition, women workers with breast cancer in Denmark may benefit from a similar presumption. (It's safe to say that no such presumptions are likely to take root in our comp system.)

Denmark is in the vanguard of worker-friendly governments. Here is just a sampling:

Some of the latest collective bargaining decisions have been an increase of the annual holiday from five to six weeks at some workplaces, an increased proportion of the wages set aside for pensions and increased access to further education. In the new agreements in 2007, many industries introduced three weeks' paternity leave on full pay. Woman already have four weeks' pregnancy leave and 20 weeks' maternity leave.

I know that some of our readers will chastise the Danes for operating a welfare state. Certainly, the Danish tax structure reflects the costs of providing robust benefits for all workers. But Denmark has a total population of only 5.5 million - one metropolitan area in the states. The scale of their social engineering is tiny by American standards.

In these days of market turmoil, where scoundrels cash out huge bonuses and ordinary workers struggle to support their families, we might take a few moments to question the efficiency and fairness of unbridled markets. In times like these, a case can be made for a strong government presence, and, perhaps, for generosity itself. As Hamlet reminds us, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Given the state of the economy, we have a lot of thinking to do.

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1 Comment


That's what makes Socialism or true Communism so attractive. If we were all honest, fair and had (the real kicker) the same goals what a perfect world. No unnecessary suffering. Everyone taken of as they need it. In a small homogenous environment like Denmark or the Onieda Commune these things can work for a while. But human nature being what it is will sooner or later tear it apart. People will start gaming the system. Outsiders without the same values will be attracted to participate but will be unwilling to submit to the groups values in return. Look what radical Islamists are already doing to cartoonists in Denmark.

I have always said the Democrats are right are universal health care, universal child care, government paid for elections, free needles, medical marijuana, euthanasia, uncontrolled immigration, reduced military, free college and so on. As long as it was a perfect world in which everybody agreed with my opinions of what was fair and not!

"ah, there's the rub" Hamlet says.
And follows later with:

"That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? "

Oh for a perfect world. The Christian hope of Heaven.



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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on March 18, 2009 3:21 PM.

New day for OSHA? was the previous entry in this blog.

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