On the first Saturday of every June, Brigham & Women’s Hospital hosts a “Day of Hope and Remembrance” memorial service for the patients, families, and friends of the patients cared for by the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). The IMP was founded in 2002 to treat patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The memorial service was an emotional and moving event for all who attended. Many tears were shed.

The service took place in the Bornstein Ampitheatre. A simple table with three empty vases stood under the video screen at the front of the room. After an introduction by Dr. Ralph Bueno, the IMP’s leader, and the Reverend John Kearns, Catherine DeVitt spoke of her beloved husband Geoffrey and the many ways in which his battle with mesothelioma affected their lives. She praised the work of Dr. Bueno and the International Mesothelioma Program. She spoke movingly of her husband’s love – his love of holidays, his love for her, his love for parties and celebrations. Poignantly, she told of his death the day before Valentine’s Day and knowing that he chose that day so he didn’t ruin the holiday for her. The overriding memory she has of her husband is of love. His love for her, their love for each other, and the love they received from family, friends and the caring members of the IMP and the Brigham & Women’s treatment teams.

The vase ceremony followed her address. Photographs of mesothelioma victims were shown on the video screen and their loved ones placed a single white rose in one of the vases in their honor. Many spoke a few words about their loved one. One woman brought flowers for a Brigham & Women’s IMP team member who had cared for her husband. Several expressed the hope that the IMP’s research would find a cure for mesothelioma.

Dr. Ralph Bueno, International Mesothelioma Program head

Dr. Ralph Bueno of the IMP.

Dr. Bueno spoke of the IMP’s research and the breakthroughs they have made in treating mesothelioma. Their goal is not so much finding a cure as to make mesothelioma a chronic, treatable disease, like diabetes or epilepsy. Charts showed IMP’s use of “big data” which has lead to small but important breakthroughs. For example, one drug they tested caused a 50% reduction in tumor size for 20% of patients. That doesn’t seem like much unless you know how little effective treatment is currently available for mesothelioma. The next step in that research is learning how to identify that 20% of patients ┬áin advance. Dr. Bueno thanked all present for the gift of allowing their family members to be treated by the IMP, letting them to accumulate the data that permits such scientific advances.

He also thanked the families for including the IMP members in the service, as the loss of their loved ones impacts many people beyond the immediate family, including physicians, nurses and other caregivers. The Brigham & Women’s community has also lost one of their own. Dr. Bueno pointed out the portrait of a beloved B&W department head who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1991 and lived 6 years after surgery at the Brigham before dying at the very young age of 60.

Several Thornton Law Firm lawyers and legal staff attended the service, as we have for many years. Reverend Kearns commented afterwards that so many people are affected by the death of a mesothelioma patient – not just family and friends, but doctors, nurses and lawyers, really everyone who comes to know and care for the person taken by the disease.


Mike Thornton addresses the gathering.

As part of our commitment to supporting the International Mesothelioma Project and their important mission, seven years ago Thornton Law Firm funded the rehabilitation of a tripledecker across the street from the hospital. Now known as The Thornton House, it provides an affordable place for mesothelioma patients and their families to stay during treatment at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, which is right across the street. More than 1000 patients and family members have stayed there. The average visit is 19 days, but one family stayed there for more than 10 months. The housing coordinators and the families support each other through the grueling treatment process.

Thornton Law Firm has had the great honor of representing mesothelioma victims and their families since we opened our doors in 1978. If you or a family member is diagnosed with mesothelioma, call on our experienced, compassionate mesothelioma lawyers for a free, no obligation legal consultation by calling 888-632-0108 or by telling us your story online. We know what your family is going through.