Support pours in for dying woman

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Meg Bourke
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
GRATEFUL: 'Their unmitigated generosity made it possible for me to enjoy my little window of time with my loving family.'

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An independent financial adviser has offered his services free to a terminally ill Bluff woman who he believes may have been wronged by her BNZ life insurance company.

"This case looks wrong; we are going to look into it to see if anything can be done," the man said yesterday.

Meg Bourke, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, this week said BNZ Life Insurance Ltd denied her the right to die with dignity after refusing to pay her full life insurance cover because she had suffered from "depression" - despite her saying she had never been diagnosed with the condition.

The independent Invercargill financial adviser had spoken to her this week and offered his services free, she said.

She had gratefully accepted the offer.

Mrs Bourke said she had been inundated with phone calls and messages of support from the public since her story ran in Wednesday's Southland Times.

"I was overwhelmed and heartened when I read the messages," she said.

The support had made her realise it was worthwhile telling her story.

She would like to see a change in the insurance system, so that terminally ill people did not have to be harassed when they had already lost quality of life, she said.

Hundreds of comments of support flooded in for Mrs Bourke on The Southland Times and Stuff websites and The Southland Times Facebook page.

About 50 people also left comments on the BNZ Facebook page with some saying they were "disgusted" with the insurance provider and urged the company to reply to them.

BNZ external relations manager Emily Davies said BNZ appreciated it was an emotive issue and people had chosen to express how they felt about it on Facebook.

"We take all feedback into consideration," she said. "However, we can't get into a public discussion about a customer's very personal and confidential information in this forum."

BNZ Insurance chief operating officer Campbell Chambers said Mrs Bourke's case had been complex and difficult, and he deeply sympathised with her situation.

"Once we had all the information relating to Mrs Bourke's case, BNZ worked hard to pay Mrs Bourke the maximum amount possible. That amount was calculated by backdating the policy terms to those that would have been in place if all the facts had been disclosed. We are bound by client confidentiality, which means we are unable to share the specific details of Mrs Bourke's claim, including the full details of her medical history which led to our decision. The story being reported does not represent the complete information about the case. BNZ Life did not make its decision based on medical notes obtained from a doctor 46 years ago."

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Mr Chambers said full disclosure was an absolute requirement, which underpinned the provision of any type of insurance.

Mrs Bourke, who turns 60 this weekend, was sexually abused when she was 10 years old and given antidepressants by a doctor when she was 14.

She said she had never suffered from those conditions and had no idea her doctor had mentioned anxiety and stress in her medical notes 46 years ago.

collette.devlin@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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