Dr Marius Barnard, the founder of critical illness insurance and the pioneer of the first heart transplant sadly died this morning at the age of 87
Today is a sad day as Dr Marius Barnard, the creator of critical illness insurance, died this morning. Dr Barnard who was born in Beaufort West, South Africa and the son of a missionary, spent most of his childhood in one of the country’s most deprived areas.
Despite this modest upbringing, Dr Barnard and his brother Christiaan both went on to study medicine and became heart surgeons. On the 3rd of December, 1967, he assisted his brother Christiaan in the first human-to-human transplant.
As a doctor, Mr Barnard said: “I diagnose and treat patients and as I went through medicine over the question of twenty/thirty years, I saw tremendous changes. Not only the medical need but also in the financial needs of our patients.
Dr Barnard was motivated by seeing his patients’ financial hardship and worked with insurance companies to get the first product on the market on 6 August, 1983.
Dr Barnard said: “The case that really triggered my ideas was a young divorcee, 34, with two young children. The X-rays and biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of lung cancer and we removed a lump. She went home five days later and three weeks later she was back at work. Two years approximately after the operation, she came to me at my consulting rooms, basically dying on her feet. Pale, exhausted, loss of weight, skin and bone, gasping for breath, and I examined her and it was pretty obvious that she was now in the terminal stages of cancer.
“Why should she come to my rooms? She can hardly walk, I can see her. She said ‘Doctor, I’ve come from work’. Now why was she at work? She needed the money. She needed money to provide for her children and herself, rent food, education. She died a few weeks later and when she was buried the life insurance policy paid out. Wouldn’t it have been better for her to have the money when we diagnosed cancer? That poor little girl had to work until basically she was dead. ”
This and many other cases like it made Marius realise there was a need for a new type of insurance – one that paid out on the diagnosis of illness such as cancer, heart attack and stroke. He shared this vision with an insurance company which then went on to develop the first critical illness policy.
Dr Marius Barnard: “We are doctors and we tried to save a human being’s life and I don’t think there is anything special about it.”
Dr Barnard continued: “You see it’s really a marriage between medicine and insurance. I always say we, as doctors, are the ‘physical doctors’, the protection insurance is the ‘financial doctors’.
“If you are ill, the first person you’ll go to, if you have a heart attack, will be your ‘physical doctor’ but I hope at that stage you’ve already made provisions so that your financial health is in place. So when your physical goes you have financial protection to provide you with that money which is the promise of insurance and the definition of insurance to give you money when you need it most.”
In later life Dr Barnard acted as a technical consultant for Scottish Widows. Johnny Timpson of Scottish Widows, a close friend of Dr Barnard’s, paid tribute today saying: “Since his first idea for this new type of insurance it has been developed by insurance companies around the world with thousands of people every year having been able to survive financially as a result of it.
“In later life, as he experienced the consequences of ageing and suffering from health impairment, he championed the need for quality long term care provision preferring to call this ” frail care “, as he rightly observed, you do not need to be old to be frail.
“He was very aware that his health was failing and urged that we as an industry continue to engage consumers on their financial protection needs as continued medical advance and resulting improvements is survival will challenge the health, welfare and care budgets of governments, employer pension schemes and families alike.”
Timpson continued: “I was able to discuss the Seven Families initiative with Marius and he was very taken with the collaborative approach that our industry is taking in engaging consumers and gave us his support.
“His final words to me were ‘Johnny, my race is run’…..Friends, he has passed the baton to us, let’s make sure that we carry it forward.”