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Waikato Times
New Zealand
Wednesday, October 2, 2002
by Rosemarie North

A Waikato patient advocate has had a victory against ACC for a patient who was addicted to a benzodiazepine, a group of drugs that includes Halcion and Valium.

Nelson woman Mary Reade was entitled to earnings-related compensation, High Court judge Peter Cartwright said in a written decision after an Accident Compensation Appeal Authority hearing in Hamilton in December 2001.

In 1993 ACC denied compensation to Mrs Reade, who started taking Ativan (a benzo) in 1987 for chronic anxiety.

A review found Mrs Reade had not been given information on the risks of long term benzo use.

But ACC denied her lump sum compensation after a GP said Mrs Reade's inability to work as a switchboard operator wasn't just due to the drug.

Representing Mrs Reade at the latest hearing, in December 2001, Waikato patients' rights advocate Anna de Jonge argued that Mrs Reade should be paid $52,800 for no longer being able to work. Mrs Reade had become addicted to Ativan after taking it for a long time without informed consent, Mrs de Jonge said.

Judge Cartwright ruled that Mrs Reade's incapacity was because of her "personal injury by accident" from the drug.

She was entitled to earnings-related compensation, but it would be up to ACC to decide how much, he wrote.

Judge Cartwright said he regretted the delay in issuing his decision, which he signed on August 29, 2002.

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