For 18 years, my husband and I would go out on a date once a month. We’d wander through downtown, do our grocery shopping and then go out for a nice dinner at a restaurant. When he got too weak to walk far, he would sit in the car while I shopped. Eventually, he was too weak to even leave the house, and I would call him on his cellphone and talk to him while I did the groceries. My husband died of mesothelioma in December of 2011.

On Monday, Maine legislators will vote on a bill, LD 1181, that would devastate the civil rights of Mainers who are suffering from mesothelioma. The bill would prevent families like ours from holding the company responsible for exposing our loved one to asbestos accountable, as long as the company was later acquired by another company. It’s a bailout, and it would do nothing to help victims like my late husband. And it would shift the burdens of asbestos disease to the victims and social service providers in Maine. I can’t help but think of how outraged my husband would be that this bill is even being considered.

For years my husband suffered with debilitating pain, needing numerous trips to the hospital. Fluid had to be drained from his lungs twice; the second time the fluid was too thick to even go through the needle. It wasn’t until 2011, the day of our anniversary, that doctors suspected he had mesothelioma and did the biopsy that confirmed it was mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a disease that can develop slowly, showing symptoms many years, sometimes even decades, after breathing in toxic asbestos fibers. My husband was exposed to asbestos in the Navy, which he joined straight out of high school. For about three years he worked as a seaman, sanding lead paint and removing asbestos from pipes. He worked in tiny enclosed areas with little or no ventilation. One assignment had him in a room that was just 16 square feet, smaller than some walk-in closets, all the time being exposed to asbestos without even a mask to cover his face.

Decades later, this exposure turned my energetic and strong husband into a weak, sick and tired man. He loved to do woodwork and drive around and take photos. As the disease consumed him, he was too weak to do anything he loved. Instead he stayed in bed, looking through the pictures he had taken. He suffered tremendously, and we all suffered along with him.

My late husband’s dying wish was that his medical bills would be paid for and that I would be looked after with the help of his mesothelioma compensation. Thankfully, I was able to get by, albeit barely, because of the compensation we received. Other families might not be so fortunate, however, if this bill passes on Monday.

Maine legislators have an opportunity to help protect victims and their families whose lives have been upended by asbestos and vote against this bill. I hope they take that opportunity.

Elizabeth Johnston lives in Machias.