Terminally ill Marie Fleming — who lost a Supreme Court appeal earlier this year to establish a legal “right to die” — was asked to produce new evidence proving her illness despite a promise by health bosses to look at how patients with long-term sicknesses were treated under the medical card scheme.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday said more compassion was needed in the process after her partner criticised the “ludicrous” request for information on her condition.
The HSE yesterday expressed regret over the correspondence after Health Minister James Reilly urged it to apologise for distress caused.
Dr Reilly said he expects the HSE “to be mindful into the future of the hurt and harm they can cause to people in seeking information that they have already been given”.
Medical cards are awarded for terminal illness on a six-month basis. At an Oireachtas health committee hearing last month, the chief executive of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, signalled this would not change, but promised to examine the situation.
“Clearly, it is not possible to issue an indefinite card because there are hopes a terminal illness may not be terminal. We have to have a review period,” he said. “But to the extent we have discretion — I am not sure what discretion we have — we will seek to exercise it in terms of looking at that six-month deadline.”
Ms Fleming, 59, who has MS, has received numerous letters requiring information on her condition and asking if conditions have changed in order to renew her card.
The Taoiseach came under strong criticism in the Dáil, with the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin asking him to accept medical cards are being removed.
Mr Kenny said a person “does not become un-terminally in” and there are lessons to be learnt by the HSE from this case.
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