Cancer survivors must not be punished twice


A local constituent of mine, a cancer-survivor and father of three in his mid-40s, who was running a small business in Cork, Ireland tried to take out an insurance policy. He was refused. He had been required to declare his past cancer diagnosis. It was a gut-punch moment of realisation for him. Despite the fact that he had recovered from the disease - had survived the gruelling treatment and stress of illness, his battle with cancer was not over. It could hang over him forever, threatening to hinder his plans for life and work.

Europe-wide, it’s a similar story. 20 million Europeans have recovered from cancer, many of whom have already experienced considerable medical, psychological, and financial challenges in their survivorship journey. Unfortunately, many people diagnosed with cancer find themselves facing the stress of financial penalties years or even decades after their treatment has come to an end. Having a history of cancer is a major hurdle for access to insurance and mortgage products in particular.

A recent study from the Irish Cancer Society has shown that nearly a quarter of people in Ireland affected by cancer are not able to even get so much as a quote for a range of financial products and services. A further half of respondents felt that insurers were difficult to deal with. 

However, there’s hope on the horizon. The EPP Group believes cancer survivors should not be punished twice for their diagnosis and have long been calling for an end to this type of financial discrimination. We have been successfully pushing for a ‘Right to be Forgotten’ clause for cancer survivors to be included in a forthcoming update of the EU’s rules on consumer credit. This means that cancer survivors applying for health, life, travel and property insurance as well as other financial products, will have the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ after a relevant period of time, so their former illness does not affect the insurance rates.  

At a European level, the ball started rolling on this issue in February 2021, when the European Commission presented its landmark plan to beat cancer, which focuses on four main areas of work: prevention, early detection, treatment and improving quality of life. 

It was through my work on the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer, that I began pushing for proposals on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’.  I was delighted to hear that the Parliament and Council agreed to include a ‘Right to be Forgotten’ clause for insurance products in new legislation.

In May of this year, the Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee voted in favour of my amendments to enshrine cancer survivors’ ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ into EU law. This was a massive step forward. The Parliament is expected to hold its final vote on this, within the updated Consumer Credit Directive, in September 2023.

However, even after formally adopting these new EU rules, we still have work to do. We are urging all EU Member States to ensure that the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ is implemented nationally. And we cannot stop there. We must also seek to extend the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ to mortgages, so that patients are not punished with financial discrimination in that area either.  

Some EU countries are already leading the way. It is time for others to follow the example of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania - the first European countries to have introduced legislation mandating the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ for cancer survivors.  

No one should have to pay twice for their cancer diagnosis. Only through adopting the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ will cancer survivors obtain the justice they deserve. The EPP Group is committed to winning this battle for cancer survivors across Europe.

By Deirdre Clune, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South and Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

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