MS sufferer Marie wins apology over medical card letter
MULTIPLE sclerosis (MS) sufferer Marie Fleming and her partner, who was forced to provide proof of her illness in order to retain her medical card, have received an apology from Health Minister James Reilly.
Tom Curran expressed his relief after the HSE confirmed that Ms Fleming's medical card would remain intact.
The HSE was strongly criticised after it sent a letter to Ms Fleming (59) demanding she showed that her condition had not changed in order to qualify for a new medical card.
The Wicklow woman is in the final stages of MS and has been terminally ill for years. But the HSE demanded Mr Curran produce medical documents proving that Ms Fleming, who fought a "right to die" case in the Supreme Court, still had the illness.
Dr Reilly said he wanted to apologise for any upset caused. "The HSE should be mindful of the hurt and harm they can cause people," he added.
But Mr Curran said he feared other terminally-ill patients had been left in the same "awful position".
"While Marie and I are relieved that this terrible situation appears to be resolved, it should never have happened," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Curran said the medical card came up for renewal every three years and previously there had not been a problem given that Ms Fleming has had MS for 35 years. But this time he was plunged into a nightmare of red tape.
"It caused unnecessary stress as if we don't have enough stress in our lives," he said.
The issue was raised with both Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday who were critical of the HSE.
Mr Kenny said that lessons needed to be learned from the case, adding that a person did not become "unterminally ill".
Mr Gilmore said the HSE's treatment of Ms Fleming was proof that the health system "can be quite cold at times".
The HSE said it regretted the inconvenience the correspondence may have caused.
"As soon as the HSE became aware that the individual has a terminal illness, steps were immediately taken to ensure eligibility remained in place," a HSE spokeswoman said.
"The medical card processing centre has a database of over two million people and handles over 10,000 pieces of correspondence each week, " she added.
Mr Curran had previously called on politicians, including Mr Kenny, to legislate for assisted suicide with necessary safeguards.
However Mr Kenny's spokesman last night said the Taoiseach did not favour legislation -- a stance which is at odds with Mr Gilmore.