FOX UNDERCOVER - A widow's 14-year fight for death benefits after her police officer husband died from Hepatitis C continued Tuesday on Beacon Hill with emotional testimony asking a legislative committee to support a law granting the benefit normally given to survivors of public safety officials who die from work-related causes.
The benefit would be an enormous help to Maura Shaw, whose husband, former Boston Police Officer Kenneth Shaw, died from the disease in 1998. The bank foreclosed on her house. She even pawned her engagement ring to make ends meet.
The family is trying again on Beacon Hill for legislation that would clear the way for the death benefit after the legislature failed to pass a bill last year that would have done so.
Officer Shaw worked in Boston's identification unit, responding to bloody crime scenes during a time when investigators handled blood without wearing protective gloves.
Doctors believe Shaw contracted Hepatitis C on the job, but the state would not give his widow accidental death benefits because she could not pinpoint the person or corpse who gave him the disease.
The bill's supporters include Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
Maura Shaw and her daughter, Stephanie Frye, testified before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Service Tuesday.
"My father was a cop's cop, always striving for integrity, fairness and righteousness," Frye said. "I come here today pleading you will do the right thing for my dad, the right thing for my mom and the conscionable thing for all future first responders that put their life out there for our safety and protection for us all. I pray that you will bring my mother's nightmare to an end once and for all and vote for a favorable decision."
Last year the bill got stuck in a legislative committee. But the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Marty Walsh, D-Dorchester, is hopeful things will be different this year. Walsh took time out from campaigning for Mayor of Boston to be at the hearing.
"This is a question of fairness. This isn't a question of somebody getting a benefit that's not deserving to them. Mr. Shaw fought for the city of Boston, worked as a police officer, did his job, and his wife, his widow, deserves what is owed to her," Walsh said. "We have the governor who's ready to sign the bill into law, we have the city and the mayor with support from the police. There's no real reason why this bill isn't done."
Considering how the bill died in committee last year, the Shaw family is asking people to call their lawmakers and tell them to support the bill for Officer Shaw's widow.
There is another bill on Beacon Hill that would give Officer Shaw's widow the benefits by amending the presumptive disability law for police officers to include blood-borne infectious diseases like Hepatitis C.
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