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Mortgage & insurance harder to access after a cancer diagnosis, new research reveals

Irish Cancer Society calls for introduction of ‘Right to be Forgotten’ beyond cancer

People affected by cancer in their lifetime face being refused products. This is includes insurance and mortgage protection cover because of their medical history, new research from the Irish Cancer Society reveals.

A past cancer diagnosis can cause difficulty for some people when it comes to accessing financial products and services. This is even if they were diagnosed as a child or teen.

Surveys were carried out by Core Research on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society. Nearly a quarter of respondents affected by cancer, or have a partner affected, said they could not even get a quote for a range of financial products and services. This is due to a diagnosis at some point in their lives. Almost half felt that insurers were difficult to deal with.

This group was over three times more likely to have difficulty purchasing insurance than the general population. Over twice as likely to experience problems in getting a mortgage. People affected by cancer were also less likely to feel that insurance is granted fairly in Ireland. Or that they had been treated fairly by insurers, compared to the general public. A previous cancer diagnosis was also considered an obstacle when applying for credit from financial institutions.

In response to the findings, the Irish Cancer Society is calling for Ireland to become the latest EU country to ensure the Right to be Forgotten beyond cancer. This is alongside France, Portugal and the Benelux countries. This will mean that people who finished cancer treatment no longer have to declare their cancer diagnosis five years after they have recovered when seeking access to financial products or services.

Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh spoke out

She said: “Our research underscores what cancer patients have been experiencing for decades – financial penalties associated with having survived cancer are all too common. People affected by cancer feel that they are being punished for their past diagnosis. They are left feeling demoralised by the process.

“This is the case not just for adult survivors of cancer but for childhood cancer survivors too. They find that their disease follows them well into adulthood. They try to move on and do normal things like get a mortgage, or buy travel or life insurance.

“As more and more people survive cancer in Ireland, the regulatory environment needs to catch up with this reality. It’s time that we brought in legislation on the Right to be Forgotten beyond cancer to catch up with other European countries. This is to ensure that people who have had a cancer diagnosis in the past are not treated unfairly when planning for their future,” Ms Morrogh added.

The call is echoed by Cork schoolteacher Kate O’Callaghan who received a cancer diagnosis

Kate had a challenging time getting a mortgage for her first home in 2020 after she was initially refused mandatory mortgage protection cover because of a previous diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, which she recovered from in 2018:“Everything was there in principle but I couldn’t get mortgage protection, and you can’t get a mortgage without it. It was such a stressful process. I got a mortgage in the end only because I happened to have salary protection and death in service benefit. I work in the public sector,” recalled Kate.

“If I didn’t have those things I don’t know what would have happened. My situation got resolved. But I want to highlight this for everyone who has an illness. Why should they be treated unfairly for no fault of their own? We’ve paid a high enough price already,” she added.

A full version of ‘The Right to be Forgotten Beyond cancer: Access to financial products and services’ report is available at:

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