Oxy announces compensation plan for victims

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Oxy announces compensation plan for victims

Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, the British-controlled company that allegedly killed and sickened some 180 people with its fatal humidifier sterilizer, has announced the details of its compensation plan.

In its third official meeting with the victims and their relatives on Sunday, the company promised to provide 1 billion won ($847,860) to each child aged 15 or younger who died or is suffering from serious pulmonary illnesses after using Oxy-brand humidifier sterilizers.

“The compensation amount for the children who died or are suffering from severe cases of pulmonary illnesses was calculated based on the trauma associated with loss for the parents and families,” said Seo Hyun-jeong, a public relations manager at Oxy Reckitt Benckiser.

”We also took into account the fact that the children’s future has been severely impacted by their sickness.”

For victims aged 15 or younger who are suffering from a moderate case of pulmonary illness, the company will provide 200 to 300 million won, and 150 million won to those whose illnesses are minor or getting better.

“The levels of severity of the victims’ illnesses will be determined using the guidelines that the Ministry of Environment uses in determining compensation amounts,” Seo said, “by measuring how much of the victims’ lungs have been incapacitated after using humidifier sterilizers.”

The compensation plan for victims aged 16 or older is as follows: 350 million won each to those who died or are suffering from serious pulmonary illnesses; 200 million won each to those suffering from moderate pulmonary illnesses; and 150 million won each to those who are recovering or suffering from minor pulmonary illnesses.

Oxy Reckitt Benckiser’s compensation plan only includes those who are listed as first-degree and second-degree victims by health authorities.

“Third-degree and fourth-degree victims have not been completely ruled out of the compensation plan,” Seo said.

“We are focusing our efforts on the first-degree and second-degree victims for now, and after we conclude the process by the end of this year, we will discuss with other sterilizer manufacturers possible compensation for third-degree and fourth-degree victims.”

After the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked pulmonary illnesses and deaths to humidifier sterilizers in 2011, the government conducted two epidemiological tests from 2013 to 2015, ranking victims based on the extent to which their pulmonary fibrosis or illness was caused by humidifier sterilizer use.

Harmed individuals are ranked as first-degree and second-degree victims when their epidemiological tests and biopsies reveal a clear or high causal relation between their pulmonary fibrosis and their use of humidifier sterilizers.

They are ranked as third-degree and fourth-degree victims when the government has confirmed their exposure to sterilizers but cannot determine a direct link between their health issues and the sterilizers.

In the first two rounds of epidemiological tests, 309 out of 530 cases were determined by health authorities to be third- and fourth-degree victims. But even though they make up more than half the victims, these cases have so far been excluded from all compensation plans.

“It is mind-boggling that Oxy Reckitt Benckiser’s compensation plan excludes the third- and fourth-degree victims,” said Kim Duk-jong, who lost his 4-year-old son to an Oxy-brand humidifier sterilizer in 2009. “If you ask me, this entire buzz about a compensation deal sounds like something to shut us all up.”

“One billion won for the trauma and loss we experienced and a child’s lost potential?” said Choi Seung-woon, who leads a civic group of humidifier sterilizer victims and their relatives. “That’s just pathetic.”

For first- and second-degree victims, Oxy Reckitt Benckiser also promised lifelong financial support for medical treatments. And for victims who used Oxy’s product with other manufacturers’ sterilizers, the company said it will first compensate the victims and then seek remuneration from the other manufacturers.

BY LEE HYUN-TAEK, JEONG JIN-WOO AND ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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