February 12, 2011 in City, News, Region

Hanford downwinder succumbs to illness


Deborah Clark, who grew up in northeast Oregon, has late-stage thyroid cancer. Her lawyers hope to fast-track her trial because of the advanced stage of her illness.
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Deborah Clark, who was among those suing Hanford contractors over her cancer, has died.

Clark, 61, passed away today of complications from thyroid cancer at a hospice in Longview, Wash., according to her mother, Betty Hiatt. She was among 1,500 Hanford downwinders who remained in the case, which was filed 1990 against the contractors who released radioactive iodine-131 from Hanford’s plutonium factories in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Clark spent her childhood in northeastern Oregon, where she was exposed to the radioactive emissions. Just last week she was offered $10,000 to settle her case, based on an estimate that she had received a low dose of radiation, less than 1 rad. Her lawyer, Steven Eymann of Spokane, estimated Clark received a far higher dose, 32 rads, and had sought $2 million. She racked up medical bills of $600,000 as her thyroid cancer spread to her bones.

The settlement issue hasn’t yet been resolved.

Last year, Eymann argued that Clark’s case be expedited because of her precarious health. U.S. District Court Judge William F. Nielsen denied that request.

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