Petition: Reclassify ME/CFS to Disability

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Associated New Zealand Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Society (ANZMES) is calling for ME/CFS to be reclassified as a disability.

We urge you to to pledge your support for this change.

People with this debilitating condition face a barrier to support under the current classification of “chronic illness” and as a result experience poor quality of life and health inequity. With increasing numbers of people with Long COVID (LC) being diagnosed with ME/CFS the existing support through nonprofit organisations is set to become unmanageable, with case numbers still rising.

With the new Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People still in development ANZMES sees that this is a timely opportunity to move forward with this long overdue change.

ANZMES President, Fiona Charlton says, “it is vital for ME/CFS and LC that this access is improved. “Many people have symptoms that are so severe that they struggle with daily tasks like showering, making a meal and are bedbound or require a wheelchair. “This growing community of chronically ill people deserve better treatment and urgently need more access to financial support and health services with acknowledgment that their illness is disabling.”

Photo Credit: Martyna Reynolds
Photo Credit: 123rf

Despite the symptoms of ME/CFS meeting many of the definitions for disability, the illness is not categorised as a disability in New Zealand for the purpose of health-related funding and support.

The Human Rights Act 1993 states that disability can be defined as:

Physical disability or impairment: physical illness: psychiatric illness: intellectual or psychological
disability or impairment: any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological: or anatomical
structure or function: reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair, or other remedial means: the presence in the
body of organisms capable of causing illness.

Reclassification will lead to real improvements in quality of life for those in need. Some people with ME/CFS become ill and never return to their pre-illness capabilities – this makes the condition life-long. ME/CFS patients require home help, housing support, financial support, and counselling access. Many people, following COVID-19 infection, are being diagnosed with ME/CFS and also require ongoing support services.

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Reclassification of ME/CFS to disability would result in:

  • legitimisation and validation of a person living with ME/CFS as a disabled person, and a protection of their rights as a disabled person,
  • easier access to governmental financial support and ministry services,
  • increased access to social services,
  • access to need assessments as a recognised disabled person,
  • access to home-help support and services, including mobility aids, and grants for home modifications for wheelchair use,
  • access to free immunisations on a voluntary basis,
  • increased level of care and support through social services and educational institutions.

What is ME/CFS?
A chronic illness involving overwhelming ongoing fatigue, ME/CFS is often triggered by a viral illness. The condition causes a variety of symptoms that range in severity as it affects many body systems, such as the immune, neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system.

Who are ANZMES?
ANZMES has been providing information, building awareness, funding research, and advocating for people with ME/CFS for the past 42 years (since 1980). As the national advisory body for ME/CFS in New Zealand, ANZMES disseminates evidence-based information nationally, and represents the ME/CFS voice globally as a founding member of the World ME Alliance. ANZMES acts as the voice of all people living with this disabling disease through advocacy and leadership.

ANZMES urges you to join us in supporting this petition by signing and sharing with your networks:

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