Fleming asked for proof of illness
Letter written to 59-year-old who has had illness for 35 years
Marie Fleming with her partner Tom Curran (left), daughter Corrinna Moore, and family friend Brendan Gainey at the High Court in January after loosing her case challenging the absolute ban on assisted suicide. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.
The Health Service Executive and the Minister for Health James Reilly have apologised for the distress caused to terminally ill multiple sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming after questions were raised by the executive about her continuing eligibility for a medical card.
Tom Curran, her partner spoke yesterday of how she had difficulty retaining her medical card.
Ms Fleming (59), who took an unsuccessful “right to die” case to the Supreme Court, received a letter in October asking if her circumstances had changed. She has had MS for 35 years.
The letter was responded to by her partner Tom Curran who said her situation had not changed and she remained terminally ill.
Despite that, the Health Service Executive (HSE) sent a further letter asking if her circumstances had changed and he was asked to fill in another form proving her medical condition.
Mr Curran described the situation as “absolutely ludicrous” and a waste of his time.
“Marie’s situation is not going to change. She has MS. While Marie has a very good religious belief, her ability to produce miracles is probably questionable. She is not going to get better. There is no doubt about that,” he told RTÉ’s News at One programme. “Can it not be logged in the system that her situation is not going to change?” Mr Curran said it was not just a computer-generated letter and involved four follow-up phone calls.
He acknowledged that the HSE had retained her medical card when they realised that she remained terminally ill, but that was only after the issue was raised in the media. The HSE claimed a review form was routine and prompted a request for extra information, but said it regretted the inconvenience.
“I can understand there are rules that are in place, but rules need to be human as well. For the other MS sufferers around the world and for those who have illnesses who are not going to get better, surely the system can log that,” Mr Curran said.
In a statement, the HSE said: “As soon as the HSE became aware that the individual has a terminal illness, steps were immediately taken to ensure eligibility remained in place.
“The medical card processing centre (PCRS) has a database of more than two million people and handles over 10,000 pieces of correspondence each week.
“A review form was issued as part of routine procedures, which prompted a request for some additional information. The HSE regrets any inconvenience the correspondence may have caused.”
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly apologised for any distress caused to Ms Fleming. “It’s very clear that her situation is unlikely to change for the better. I know the HSE has apologised, and I certainly would like to apologies for any hurt or upset or distress caused to her,” he said, at a press conference.