A common statement made about MS, one that makes it seem so much more benign, is that it is not a death sentence, i.e. is not a fatal disease. It’s one of the first things told to a newly diagnosed person.
Yet a person who suffers from MS can’t get life insurance. No legitimate insurer will write a policy for someone with MS. Why? Is there something we aren’t being told? For all their faults, and they have many egregious ones, insurance companies know the numbers. So, what’s the deal?
It’s the T-Rex in the room that no one talks about.
Recently a couple of quasi-celebrities with MS passed away from the proverbial “complications due to MS”: eternal Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr. Those deaths, along with the question a fellow MS patient asked about why it’s impossible to get insurance, got me to thinking about this topic. In my research, I even came upon a Wikipedia entry showing “Deaths from multiple sclerosis“. Some of the entries surprised me.
Why do I bring up such a depressing topic? To simply shed some light on it. On the one hand, we don’t want to overplay the idea of MS as being fatal. In the great majority of cases, it isn’t. On the other hand, we don’t want to soft-sell MS as a disease. It’s serious and potentially deadly. Although it isn’t fatal for most, it can still destroy a life, even if that life isn’t ended prematurely.
The real truth is that a person with MS has on average a 5% shorter life expectancy than the general public. If the rare cases of the primary progressive form of the disease are removed from that number, it gets closer to the typical life span. Then there are the unfortunate, but not unheard of, instances of suicide brought about by MS depression. They also skew the numbers.
The bottom line is that for most people with MS, life expectancy is pretty close to the rest of the population. With that information, it behooves those of us with MS to live for the long (eternal?) term and take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually in the meantime.
But denying our mortality doesn’t help anyone.