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Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc.

Shipping and the Law

NLRC rules diabetes not work-related

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, Managing Director, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., January 13, 2005

Summary

Seafarer was repatriated due to his illness of Type II diabetes millitus.  At issue before the NLRC was whether the illness was work-related as to entitle the seafarer to full disability benefits.  The NLRC ruled that the illness is not work-related.  Diabetes, as a disease or illness, is familial or genetic which may arise despite employment.  Since the disease is familial, seafarer may have been afflicted from childhood days or adulthood years or there exists a high degree of probability that some family members are likewise afflicted with the same disease.  It takes some considerations like familial pre-disposition, genetics set-up, lifestyle, diet and others, not work-connected, for diabetes to develop.  Further, there is nothing in the workplace or among his duties which could make the seafarer prone to diabetes.  Also, diabetes is not a total disability but a passing malady which can be checked by constant adherence to medication, exercise and dietary regimen.


Facts 

Seafarer was employed on the MV ASIAN PEGASUS as Chief Engineer under the amended POEA contract.  About five months later, he was hospitalized at the Fujairah Port Clinic due to "diabetic keso acidosis".  He was repatriated and treated in Manila at vessel's expense until such time as the company-designated physician declared his illness as not work-related.  His sickness wages was also paid up to the time of the declaration of non work-relation. 

Seafarer filed a claim for permanent and total disability alleging that his illness is considered work-related until substantial evidence proves that his illness is pre-existing; that he never had any symptoms of diabetes until he had worked on board the vessel and that since he can no longer go back to sea, his illness must be awarded disability compensation of US$60,000.

Vessel argued that seafarer was treated and paid his sickness benefits up to the time of declaration of non-work-relation.  Further seafarer's Type II diabetes is not work-related as declared by the company-designated physician.

The NLRC ruled that seafarer is not entitled to compensation as the illness is not work-related.  The NLRC reasoned thus:

1.  The vessel is only liable if the seafarer suffers a work-related illness.

2.  The disease of Type II Diabetes Millitus is not work-related.  Diabetes, as a disease or illness, is familial or genetic which may arise despite employment.  Since the disease is familial, seafarer may have been afflicted from childhood days or adulthood years or there exists a high degree of probability that some family members are likewise afflicted with the same disease.  It takes some considerations like familial pre-disposition, genetics set-up, lifestyle, diet and others, not work-connected, for diabetes to develop. 

3.  There is nothing in complainantís workplace, or among his duties which could prone him to diabetes.He developed this illness because of his own genetic, familial, dietary and other factors, which are not affected by his employment.†† Otherwise stated, whether or not complainant is/was employed by respondents, he would have developed his illness because the cause thereof was something in his general physiological make up.

4.  Further, the illness which the appellant suffers may not be treated as a total disability.If at all, it is just a passing malady which can be checked by constant adherence to medication, exercise and dietary regimen.The illness is not an impediment for which complainant should be compensated for the work place may be inhabited with diabetics whose productivity is above performance level.

The complaint was dismissed as seafarer does not suffer from total disability as his illness is not work-related or an occupational disease as may be sanctioned by the employment contract.

Fernando vs. Sea Workforce Manila Corp., et. al., NLRC NCR OFW CN. 03-07-1747-00, CA No. 040321-04, October 19, 2004

 

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