Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who are you calling mental?

What the ..........????!!!!!!

I was sitting on the sofa idly scrolling through my twitter feed last night when I came across a  comment relating to this travesty in the Asda online catalogue.

By the time I caught up with what was happening, Asda (Walmart to any US readers) had already withdrawn their advertisment for a 'mental patient fancy dress costume', which featured a torn straight jacket, fake blood and a meat cleaver.

All day long there had been complaints bouncing around social media sites, but it took until 11pm at night before an official apology from Asda was posted on Twitter.

Sorry or just found out?

What fascinates and appalls me about this story, quite apart from the obvious horror that in the 21st century a company - or indeed any human being - can think this sort of typecasting stigmatisation is in any way acceptable, is that so many 'thinking' people will have been involved in the chain of events that led to the item being displayed on their website.

It would have been commissioned, designed, and marketed. People whose job it is to imagine what it is the public want will have signed off on this.

Well, the public have spoken. And it's a no from us, I'm afraid.

And yet it still took Asda, and indeed Tesco who sold a similarly ghastly product, until late in the day until the damage control was set in motion - including a promise of a sizeable donation to the mental health charity 'Mind'.

I imagine there are a few uncomfortable meetings taking place within their walls today.

The only good to come of this, apart from that donation, is the realisation that society as a whole has come a long way on this issue - judging by the public's reaction. Clearly there is an awfully long way to go however before the 1 in 4 of us who suffer some sort of mental health issue can feel comfortable enough to express such problems openly and without fear of reprisals or derision.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Travel Insurance

'Hello, may I help you?'

'Yes, I'm ringing for a quote for some travel insurance. I need to declare a pre-existing medical complaint.'

'No problem at all. Can I just check that none of you have a terminal illness, or are awaiting surgery?'

'I'm awaiting surgery. But it will be done well before the trip.'

'What's it for?'

'A trapped nerve. But as I said, it will be done well before the trip.'

'Unfortunately we will not be able to cover you for the trapped nerve.'

'Well, that's OK, it won't be trapped by then.'

'No, but if you need to cancel because of the trapped nerve, you won't be covered.'


'Do you have any other pre-existing illnesses?'

'Yes. I have systemic lupus.'

'Oh, right, OK. I just need to ask the following questions. How many medications do you take for the lupus?'


'Is it 0-2, 3-4, 5-6 or more?'

'It's still one.' There is a pause. '0-2.' The pause this time seems to have taken on a slightly disbelieving quality. 'Well, I do take a further two medications but these are to protect me from the effects of the one.'

'So you take 3-4.'

'No. I take one drug for the lupus, prednisolone. I take another drug so that the prednisolone doesn't irritate my gut, and another so it doesn't weaken my bones.'

'Oh, OK. So you take 0-2 medications for your lupus.'


'And you take one for your  gastric reflux.'

'Yes!, wait. I don't have gastric reflux.'

'Is the drug one that ends in "...azole"?'

'Yes...omeprazole....' (feeling that I am walking into a trap)

'Then you have gastric reflux.'

'Ah, no, you're misunderstanding. You see, I don't have gastric reflux, never have had, because I am on omeprazole. Not the other way around. It's preventative, you see. Trust me, I'm a nurse. Next thing you'll be telling me that I have osteoporosis, because I'm on bone-protecting medication.'

'And you also have osteomalacia, for which you take 0-2 medications. That's not so bad, it's just softening of the bones.'

'I definitely don't. I've had scans. My bones are stronger than yours, I'll bet.'

'I'm sorry, Madam. You are on this medication. Therefore you are classed as having these conditions. Therefore we must charge you extra.'

'So I'm stuffed for being cautious and sensible'.

(brightly) If you come off any of these medications before your holiday, you can let us know, and we may be able to reduce your premium.'

'So I'd be rewarded for putting myself in a position where I'd be more likely to develop a medical problem whilst on holiday.'

'Now, is there anything else? No heart problems? Is anyone on blood pressure medication?'

(Thinks: actually, my blood pressure has been a bit high of late, years of taking the prednisolone are catching up. But playing safe by seeing the GP to start medication is clearly going to cost me.'
'No, nothing that way at all. Fit as a fiddle.'

So...the moral of the story is: if you want to stay healthy, keep taking the tablets. But if you want to keep the insurance premium down, stop. Which of course makes it far more likely that more people, having a strong disincentive to start / continue on preventative medicine, develop problems that in the long run put up the premiums for us all.

Bit of a wobbly system, isn't it?