Australian Court Rules Widow Entitled To War Pension After Husband Dies 64 Years After World War II Service . . . From Salt Consumption

chow_on_the_beach220px-Salt_shaker_on_white_backgroundThere 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.

inside_mess_tentHutton 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

12 thoughts on “Australian Court Rules Widow Entitled To War Pension After Husband Dies 64 Years After World War II Service . . . From Salt Consumption

  1. While I agree with your analysis as to the legal facts, I think it is worth noting that the Aussies will err on the side of the widows and those affected by military service. The contrast while it may not be a great case legally, morally I applaud it since it is so different from what the US government has done or not done for Americans who have far better cases for war disabilities. Bravo for Australia.

  2. Now war causes plenty of harm to us humans, PTSD being one that has existed since the days of Agincourt [sp?]. But this is ridiculous. I’d have signed him up for VA medical care, even covered his burial costs, but where was his widow when he salted himself to death? She’s a huge part of the blame. And today in the US, we are addicted to salt, too. Try reading the labels on those canned foods you bought!

  3. I would like to make a minor point about the medical science that is being slightly misrepresented here. The taking of salt in hot climates is NOT to prevent dehydration. The proper medical advice to avoid dehydration is to AVOID salt, not to increase the intake of salt. Salt is taken in hot climates because when we sweat, we lose salt. Increasing salt intake is to replenish the salt lost through sweating. However, one must drink more water when they ingest more salt in order to avoid the increased problem of dehydration caused by taking salt. The more salt a person takes, the more water they will need to drink to avoid dehydration.

  4. 88 is actually a ripe old age for someone who has uncontrolled hypertension. Stroke or kidney failure happens to much younger people with hypertension, if that was the cause of his death. Having said that, I find it admirable that Australia is showing kindness to his widow, despite his age at his time of death.

  5. I would also agree the legal case for the war attributed death from salt is a bit “shaky” , yet often it is the case where the emotional trauma, as well as use of heavy narcotics as treatment to war wounds, is a large reasons some vets become addicted to drugs.

    As far as this board of appeals crafting the link to the war to give this woman a pension, that’s honorable in my book.

    It reminds me of the Australian movie “Mad Max” where Fifi says “As long as the paperwork’s clean you boys can do what you want.”

  6. Having no knowledge of what other things the Australian military did to “help” their soldiers on combat duty, I shudder to wonder about the litigation flood-gates that would open in this country for all of those widow(er)s from each and every war since the military made cigarettes freely available to their husbands/spouses. Did Australian soldiers also get free cigs? Were they dying in large numbers from smoking-related diseases? If a salt addiction can be blamed on the military telling them “it will help you” with dehydration and salt loss, what about a nicotine addiction? “It’ll calm your nerves.” I believe a nicotine addiction is probably much harder to break than a salt addiction, though I’ve not studied any comparisons.

    Of course, if Australian solders were not given free and unlimited cigarettes, it doesn’t matter. As for our own soldiers and their families, being able to get some kind of compensation for such deaths/illness from our military, to me, is the only fair response.

  7. Compassion is not the vocation of the juridical system. If any compassion would be in order for somebody who helped her husband salt himself to death, it should be administered by the government, not by judges.

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