There is an interesting ruling by an administrative appellate court in Australia this week awarding an Army widow a pension after the death of her husband in July 2012. Clement Hutton had hypertension and Shirley Hutton argued that he became addicted to salt while serving in the Australian army in World War II.
The court agreed that Hutton was entitled to a war widow pension due to the link to his service and emphasis of salt consumption to avoid dehydration in hot climates. He continued after World War II to put salt on everything from apples to porridge and his favorite dish was “a Sao biscuit with slices of cheese and tomato caked in salt.”
He was warned by doctors of the health consequences of his excessive salt intake in 1997.
The tribunal found that Mr Hutton’s death was technically caused by war.
Hutton served in the Army between 1942 and 1946 in New Guinea and Bougainville. Soldiers at the time were given salt tablets to fight dehydration and given high salt foods. Hutton later became a cane cutter and farmer in hot environments.
Clearly, this could be a noble effort to simply fund a widow in her later years — something few of us would oppose. However, from a legal and medical perspective, the logic of the opinion seems a bit shaky.
What is surprising is that his death did not occur until 67 years after his service and five years after he was told to stop eating so much salt. Moreover, Mrs. Hutton did not marry him until after the war and had no personal knowledge of his diet before or during the war. Moreover, her children actually testified that Mrs. Hutton made salt readily available and over-salted food in conformity with her husband’s tastes.
Moreover, one in three people in an American study had high blood pressure and hypertension remains a leading cause of death. Even assuming that Hutton was only 18 years old in 1942. That would have made him 88 years old when he died. That is well beyond the expected lifespan of men of his generation. There is also the question of personal choice since most veterans did not continue a heavy salt consumption or failed to listen to their doctors.
Notably, Senior Member Bernard J McCabe stated in his opinion that “I acknowledge it is possible Mr Hutton consumed salt during the war and then broke the pattern following his discharge only to re-establish the pattern once he was married and engaged in heavy physical labour in a hot climate.”
Yet, he still found that Mrs. Hutton’s husband was a casualty of war and the lethal weapon was salt.
The opinion can be found at the link below.
Source: Northern Star