Vicky Phelan / Claire Byrne Live RTE Player
Vicky Phelan is a remarkable woman. I’ve written before of my admiration for the cervical cancer scandal whistle-blower, who is herself battling a terminal diagnosis. She has such depth of strength, such character, she speaks eloquently and stands up as a moral guardian for women facing this hellish disease.
Last night, she showed her resolve once again, as she sat on Claire Byrne Live and highlighted one of the most unconscionable injustices of our health system.
In one seat we had Vicky, who as part of the 221+ group of women affected by the cervical cancer scandal, receives paid access to a drug known as Pembro, which according to her is allowing her to live a relatively normal life despite her diagnosis. She has few side effects and a much better quality of life than when on chemotherapy.
Most importantly it’s buying her precious time with her family.
In the seat next to her we had Aine Morgan, a musician who is too suffering with the same disease and has too exhausted all other avenues of treatment. She’s facing a terminal diagnosis. She too showed immense strength of character and spoke eloquently.
The difference between them?
Aine does not fall within the 221+ group and therefore is expected to pay over €8,000 every three weeks for the same drug that is funded for the other group. In fact she expressed her shame that she'd had no choice but to set up a gofundme page to help fund her treatment.
I sat, open mouthed watching the situation explained on the TV last night. I watched as these two equally brave women sat side by side, yet separated by the chasm of bureaucracy.
It seemed unbelievable. The worst part according to the panel is that if the drug was to go through the normal procedures to get funding approval, all in all it might take 2-3 years before the process is completed.
The fact is some of these women will be dead by then.
These are peoples lives we’re talking about here. Not statistics, not faceless names, but women. Many of them in their prime with young families and we’re saying what…
That red tape, fine print and a failure to act is more important than their lives?
And yet, here we are.
I feel like I’ve written about Ireland’s disgraceful treatment of women over the decades, so many times I’m dizzy. I feel like my words are just merging into one messy, gloopy, unreadable pile of anger and disappointment. Of hurt and empathy.
So if by some miracle, someone with the wherewithal to actually do something about this is reading my words, then please step up and do it. Cut through the bullshit and act to at least give these women a chance of hope that this drug might buy them some extra time.