George Komakis, who is caring for his wife with cancer, supported by the community clinic – Report from Metropolitan Community Clinic at Hellinko, Greece We didn’t choose to publish the harrowing experiences of a cancer patient and her family. But Geor …

Walton Pantland Greece, Health
George Komakis, who is caring for his wife with cancer, supported by the community clinic

George Komakis, who is caring for his wife with cancer, supported by the community clinic

– Report from Metropolitan Community Clinic at Hellinko, Greece

We didn’t choose to publish the harrowing experiences of a cancer patient and her family. But George Komakis wanted to speak out. He is a man whose only purpose is to provide the person in his life with the care, dignity, humanity she deserves in her final days. George Komakis is not a stoic example of one facing fate. Rather he decided to speak out on the problems he and his wife are facing for the sole sake of highlighting the problems that the uninsured face when dealing with cancer.

The 64 year old Mr. Komakis has been unemployed for more than eight years. He did odd jobs and up until 2011 and was able gain some work days under IKA (the main social security carrier in Greece). Since then, however, the couple has been uninsured.

In September of 2013, his wife became ill and was soon diagnosed with lung cancer, which quickly metastasized throughout her body. Mr. Komakis, like every uninsured citizen, was obliged to sign an undertaking to the public hospital in order for his wife to be admitted to the hospital and to receive care. These undertakings were a promise to pay the full cost of hospitalization and medicines provided for his wife. If he cannot pay, the debt will be automatically passed to the tax authorities and the money owned added to his tax debt.

Mr. Komakis didn’t hesitate to sign. His only goal is to see his wife cared for with dignity and humanity in her final days. He is not working – he’s with her 24 hours a day. Soon the state will be chasing him to recover the debt. What then? “Absolutely nothing,” he says. “I have nothing, no assets, what will they do? Throw me in prison?”

This person chose to show the public what the uninsured face. He asks only that his wife be allowed to die with dignity – and certainly we are entitled to that.

We took this case to the Ministry of Health and asked that they settle the debt and cease hunting down ALL uninsured citizens. The uninsured suffering from severe diseases can not cover the costs of their illness – much less the long term unemployed. The state must cease its inhumane and devastating behavior toward individuals who are simply unfortunate and ill.

Mr. Komakis does not have the resources to pay for “what comes next.” He can barely think of life without his wife of more than 40 years.

Here is a short video made by one of our volunteers. In it, Mr. Komakis testifies as to the difficulties they have faced. It is, of course, in Greek. Below find an abbreviated translation of what he had to say.


“My name is George Komakis. We are here in hospital because my wife is a cancer sufferer We discovered this in September when we went to a general practitioner. She completed three cycles of chemo-therapy and seemed to do well. Suddenly one morning she awoke with a severe headache. We came to the hospital and she was admitted on the 3rd (of February). The cancer had spread. She could not talk, could not communicate.

“There seemed at times to be some improvement – but she is in a very difficult state, as the doctors told me. The doctors are doing all they can so that she is not in pain. I have no complaint against them – they are doing all they can. My problem is that we are uninsured. I have been pressured to sign certain affidavits that we will cover the expense. It was a difficult negotiation to get her admitted to and keep her in hospital.

“It seems to me that every person has a right to care and to be comforted for as long as they can live. For whatever reasons a person is uninsured, it seems to me that they don’t lose that right. I was able to have my wife and myself insured for much of my working life. At this point, we are not insured. It is shameful that anyone should be left to die in the street simply because they are uninsured for whatever reason. We have to look and see how we can help cancer patients who are in their last stages . That’s all I have to say. I hope I can be understood. I am trying to help my wife, who is in the last stage of her life.

The hospital asked me to sign a promissory note for the hospitalizations and at some point, they will attach that to my tax obligation. I signed it – I didn’t even read it. I don’t even care what it says; I was just trying to get my wife admitted to where she could be cared for. I don’t care about anything else

What do I want from the Ministry of Health? I’d like them to be considerate – if not of all, for at least the cancer patients who cannot fight; to be understanding and sensitive to the agony of these families and help them. These are short periods of time for a few families and a few people They might survive days or months, and then they’re gone. That’s the problem. That’s the humane thing to do. That’s what I ask for. As every person should whether they insured or uninsured. That’s it. I don’t know if people will understand me. At this point, I’m interested in my wife leaving this life in a humane way – nothing else”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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