The right decision

Shane Cowlishaw at Stuff reports:

An embalmer who was forced to counsel the grieving father of a suicide victim has been denied cover because it was not the only harrowing incident of her career.

The woman, who cannot be named, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2009.

Her routine job involved collecting the bodies of people who died naturally, but occasionally she would be called to police scenes such as murders and suicides.

In 2007 she attended a scene north of Auckland where a young man had hanged himself.

The police and victim support were unable to get his father to release the body, so she sat and talked with him, eventually persuading him to help in getting his son on to a stretcher.

But a police officer then threw the rope on top of the body, causing further distress to the father.

The woman continued to work as an embalmer until 2009, when she resigned and lodged a claim for mental injury. She was shocked when ACC declined it.

Under section 21B of the ACC Act, a claimant can seek cover for a work-related mental injury that is not linked to a physical injury.

However, it must be related to a single traumatic event, and ACC argued the woman’s condition was the cumulative effect of a number of sad or distressing events she had had to attend.

I’m glad to see this decision, because what makes ACC less sustainable is the way it has inevitably expanded from its core role, which was to provide income to people who injured themselves while working – while they recovered.

It was never meant to be  general counselling service for the entire country.

I’m not trying to be unsympathetic, but if you choose to be an embalmer (I could never ever be one) then it is highly likely you will see a lot of dead bodies including homicide and suicide victims. And yes it will be traumatic – but it is not an accident.

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