This is a story of how a widow changed the Norwegian health care system by Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
The 31-year-old father of two had cancer that had spread to his pancreas, intestines and to all his bones. The doctors in Norway were clear that they could not cure him, but his strongest wish was to live. A cancer clinic in Germany seemed to be the answer, but after 20 days at the clinic he died, with no family members present, after spending 3.6 million kroner on treatment.
The man’s young widow, Ninni, told her story to Aftenposten, which then launched an in-depth investigation to find out how Norwegian patients were treated at this clinic. It turned out that 31 out of 38 patients had died.
One in three Norwegians develop cancer during their lifetime. More and more seek treatment abroad when the treatment they receive in Norway fails to work. They feel abandoned by the Norwegian health service, and are willing to pay up to a million kroner from their own pocket.
On 5 August 2017, the Norway’s health minister Bent Høie ordered Norwegian hospitals to implement a national system whereby severely ill patients can seek advice from an expert panel when traditional treatment no longer has any effect. This means that patients whose doctors have told them that they cannot be cured can be considered for alternative treatment elsewhere in Norway or abroad, paid for by public funds. It had been eight years since such an expert panel was first proposed. Each time, the Directorate of Health said no.
It took a series of articles in Aftenposten to provide the most severely ill patients with such an offer. Ninni’s story helped change the Norwegian health care system.