Special Features

Change of heart – the operation that changed the world

Johnny Timpson - Scottish Widows
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7th May 2018
Johnny Timpson Scottish Widows
"Heart-related disorders were the second largest cause of life cover claims at Scottish Widows in 2016, accounting for 26 per cent of cases for men and 11 per cent of cases for women. "

Sometimes life can take an unexpected turn for the worse, and becoming seriously ill can bring all sorts of financial worries, such as meeting payments for our home or being able to look after our family. We know from our own research, however, that fewer than one in ten people have critical illness insurance to protect them against the financial implications of a serious medical condition.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the first human heart transplant in the UK, which came just five months after the world’s first heart transplant, carried out in Cape Town, South Africa by a pioneering medical team led by Professor Christiaan Barnard. At his side, as part of the team, was his brother Marius Barnard.

Marius went on to travel the world, training other surgeons and developing techniques to improve paediatric cardiovascular surgical procedures. Alongside this, however, he was able to help patients cope better with the financial impact of illness.

His own vast medical experience along with his interest in medical developments in fields other than his own enabled him to realise the impact that advances in medical and pharmaceutical care would have on survival rates. While this would result in additional quantity of life, the same couldn’t necessarily be said for its quality, as the patients’ post-treatment ability to work and earn a living was, in many cases, seriously impaired.

It was this concern that motivated Marius to work with the insurance industry to develop a new form of insurance cover - one that would allow people to make a claim on the diagnosis of life-changing and/or limiting health conditions, not solely on death from them. And so critical illness was born in August 1983. In the years that followed, it was developed by insurance companies around the world with thousands of people every year having been able to survive financially as a result of it.

Marius was a personal friend and mentor of mine. Very sadly, he died of cancer in November 2014, and his final words to me were “Johnny, my race is run”. He asked me to safeguard and advocate what he regarded as his greatest achievement, the creation and development of critical illness insurance, which can provide a financial lifeline to those who are recovering from a serious condition.

Coronary Heart Disease is one the UK’s leading causes of death, but advances in medicine mean that an increasing number of people are surviving conditions that previously were fatal. According to the British Heart Foundation, an estimated 915,000 people alive in the UK today have survived a heart attack, and around seven in 10 people now survive one, whereas in the 1960s seven out of heart attacks were fatal. This increases the need for critical illness cover.

Heart-related disorders were the second largest cause of life cover claims at Scottish Widows in 2016, accounting for 26 per cent of cases for men and 11 per cent of cases for women. They were also the second largest cause of critical illness claims among men, accounting for 21 per cent of claims, and the third largest cause among women at five per cent.

Many people believe that they’ll be able to rely on the State if illness strikes, and while this provides a basic level of support, we would firmly advise people to, where appropriate, make their own provision for themselves and their families in order to provide peace of mind with the knowledge that there’s a financial safety net in place.

You can watch a short film about Marius Barnard here.

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