Bereaved family in housing limbo following personal trainer's cancer death

Vivienne McLaughlin's husband and children face homelessness after insurance company said they would be unable to pay claim.

A Glasgow family are campaigning for better understanding of women’s health after losing their 32-year-old wife and mother to cervical cancer.

Vivienne McLaughlin from Glasgow repeatedly attended the doctor concerned about her heavy period but she was told it was of no concern and she would simply have to “live with it”.

Six months later, it was discovered Vivienne had terminal cancer and she died a few weeks later.

The insurance company then said they would be unable to accept their claim, leaving the family facing homelessness.

Vivienne, 32, was a loving wife, a mum-of-two, a successful business owner, and fundraising champion.

But her life was cut tragically short by cervical cancer.

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“She was a character, she was always up for a laugh, said Vivienne’s husband, Thomas. “She was a PT, a big advocate for women’s health….does the school run, runs a business, runs the house. She was perfect.”

Vivienne first went to the GP complaining of heavy bleeding in January of last year but she was repeatedly reassured there was no cause for alarm.

“Viv knew something was wrong,” explained Thomas. “The GP just kept insisting it was just a heavy period, it’s nothing.

“She kept coming back saying I’m very fatigued and they kept fobbing her off all the time. One GP actually said some things you just can’t get to the bottom of, and said ‘you just have to live with it.’”

Vivienne died six months later.

Towards the end of her life she suffered multiple blood clots and mini strokes, as well as losing her sight and speech.

Thomas said: “It was traumatising, obviously for her, myself, the kids, watching someone go through that – it scars you.”

Feeling utterly let down by the GP, Thomas and his children are still trying to grieve.

Vivienne McLaughlin and her family.STV News

But their situation got unimaginably worse when the life insurance claim was denied – meaning they have lost the family home.

“When we took out the house we needed to get life insurance,” said Thomas. “We went with Legal & General. We wrote everything in the application form, saying she went for this test, that test.

“She’s got a heavy period but that’s all the doctors are telling us. It says is there any other ongoing tests? At that time there wasn’t.

“There was no diagnosis, and there was no illness when we took that application out. Scrimped and scraped for years and years for a mortgage, our first family home – and basically it’s been taken away from us, just because they don’t want to pay out.”

It’s left him facing the brutal reality of Scotland’s housing emergency, and the prospect of living apart from his children.

Thomas said: “Temporary accommodation are saying because of the housing crisis you could be put anywhere in Glasgow.

“I’m saying ‘I need to keep my children round the schools’ but they’re saying you have to take what’s given to you. There’s nothing really I can do, apart from make sure the kids have a roof over their heads and I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll find something.”

Legal and General told STV News they understand this is a “difficult and upsetting time” for Thomas and his family and said they would carry out an urgent review.

They have now decided to pay out in full.

A spokesperson for Legal & General said: “We are pleased to confirm that Mr McLaughlin’s claim has been accepted, paid, and we have notified him of this.

“We would like to reiterate that we are truly sorry for Mr McLaughlin’s loss and appreciate that this has impacted an already stressful and upsetting time.”

In the meantime – Thomas is determined to carry on Vivienne’s legacy by advocating for women’s health.

He wants yearly smear tests to become the standard – and says everyone should feel they’re being listened to.

“Don’t take no for an answer,” he said. “Keep pushing and pushing. Because ultimately you know your body better than anyone.”

Women’s health minster Jenni Minto said the Scottish Government’s thoughts go out to all those who have suffered bereavements due to cervical cancer.

She said: “We continue to work towards the World Health Organisation’s targets to eliminate cervical cancer using all available tools. This includes introducing a one-dose schedule of the HPV vaccine, increasing screening uptake and continued investment in treatment.

“We understand the desire for more frequent cervical screening; however, Scotland offers screening in line with recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee, which advises that screening can be offered safely every five years.

“We continue to ensure work is carried out to address inequalities in uptake and access to screening, having committed £3m since 2021 to tackle inequalities in the programmes, which remains a priority.

“This has supported Boards to develop initiatives to meet local needs; development of better data capabilities so interventions can be more targeted; and work to raise the profile of screening among specific groups. In 24-25, an additional £1m will be provided to build on this work.”

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