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French cancer victims want medical files ‘forgotten’ by banks

Rose Magazine

A French cancer association has called on President François Hollande to deliver on his promise to give cancer survivors the right not to have their medical histories considered when applying for bank loans, credit or insurance policies.

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Banks in France currently ask their consumer credit and mortgage-seeking clients to fill out a health questionnaire – specifically asking whether the person has suffered from cancer – before considering their requests.

When it comes to insurance, many former cancer sufferers are often either denied a policy or are only offered one that comes with a series of additional, unfavourable clauses.

France’s INC national cancer institute has said that France is one of Western Europe’s most socially unequal countries when it came to cancer, both in terms of which social classes are most prone to getting the disease and how cancer victims are treated socially.

The campaign, launched this week by the French cancer association Rose, comes eight months after Hollande’s Socialist government announced a €1.5 billion nationwide cancer plan aimed at reducing the social inequalities suffered by those who have been diagnosed with the illness.

One of the chief aims of the government’s plan was to rectify these financial inequalities. The plan noted that French cancer victims were discriminated against when taking out bank loans, requesting credit or in taking out an insurance policy.

Hollande promised in February to remove these obstacles by introducing a “right to be forgotten” clause on medical records that could otherwise hamper people’s chances of getting loans, even after they recover.

“[Cancer survivors] remain suspects,” Hollande said at the time. “When requesting credit they discover that they are asked to provide more guarantees [than others] and that it’s more expensive.”

“Even if they are cured, they cannot become home owners, or only at huge cost,” he said, adding that “the time has come to establish a real right to be forgotten”.

When, Mr President?

“It’s been eight months [since the pledge], Mister President,” Rose said this week, adding: “We fear that this project is being buried among thousands of other priorities. Yet this fight is necessary for citizens to be treated equally.”

Rose said the existing system puts the interests of insurance companies ahead of those of cancer sufferers.

“We who suffer from cancer, or have family who are ill, demand that you renew your efforts,” Rose said in an open letter to Hollande, published in its eponymous magazine.

“The existing balance – where the interests of multinational insurance companies stands on one side and those who are sick on the other – is not in our favour.”

“These outdated rules prevent us from borrowing even decades after the treatments have ended. We believe in this ‘right to be forgotten’ in banking,” the group said.

The Rose campaign includes a petition and an online art gallery, where portraits of female cancer sufferers have been photoshopped onto famous paintings including “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and the “Mona Lisa”.

Cancer remains the No. 1 killer in France, with some 148,000 people dying from the disease in 2012. But many also survive, with an estimated 3 million out of France’s 66 million population either living with, or having recovered from, the disease.

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