When Should ACC Draw The Line?

Today’s heartbreaking story comes to you courtesy of the New Zealand Herald. A woman who was raped needs surgery in order to live a pain-free life, and ACC says no.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Whatever happened to this woman must have been pretty bad, because she needed a pelvic mesh to hold her organs in place so they didn’t try to escape via her vagina. This surgery was carried out in a marathon surgery, and appears to have been paid for by ACC. Her innards stayed in, and the operation was deemed a success. Life should be going slowly back to normal.

It wasn’t. Pain in her abdomen, back, and legs got worse and worse, and standard diagnostic techniques showed nothing amiss. Finally, she found out that her mesh was eroding. Bits of it were breaking away and wandering around her abdomen. Not great. It needed to come out.

This is where it gets complicated. She’s the only person in New Zealand with this implant, and there’s no-one in here that knows how to remove it. She needs to go over to the US to get this all fixed. And that will cost around US$200,000. And ACC say they will not pay.

The outrage is almost reflexive. This woman was raped so badly that she needed her pelvis rebuilt. She’s suffered so much, and now she’s expected to suffer more because ACC won’t pay out? What do our ACC levies go to if not ensuring that people like her can get the care they need? She deserves better. After all, the surgery that ACC paid for is somewhat responsible for what happened, and ACC needs to step up and help put it all right.

An ACC case worker said that if they approved this, it would open the door to other claims. And they may have a point. This is a hugely expensive surgery, and if she gets it, then who knows what kinds of cases will apply for who knows how much money, using her case as a precedent. Their budget can only stretch so far, and there are many competing demands on their resources.

What about the mesh company? Their products are known to cause some problems, and Ms Scott is not the only one to have suffered from defective products. Well, there’s a lawsuit overseas that may pay out damages, but there is a time limit here. she needs to leave the country for the US on March 5th, 2014. There’s no way any damages will be paid out by then.

So, without the money she’s going to die in pain, although how long it will take is unknown. With the money she can have her quality of life back. And someone needs to pay.

Should it be paid by ACC? Perhaps. They paid for the original surgery, and I think they should pay at least part of putting it right. Maybe the DHB should put some into the pot as well. But she needs to be on that plane in March, because it’s not fair at all that she should have to live in pain caused by a rape. The psychological effects are bad enough. She shouldn’t have to live with these physical effects.

She has set up a page on Givealittle. Maybe the people’s charity will get her where public insurance fails.

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