Family pleads for compassion from insurer after undiagnosed tumour kills father

The family of a Christchurch man who died from an undiagnosed brain tumour says they feel let down by their insurance company, which has refused to pay out his expired life insurance policy - despite claims he only missed payments because of the fatal illness he didn't know he had.

David Dishington died in September 2013 from seizures caused by the undiagnosed tumour.

Mr Dishington, a businessman and financial advisor, had been an AMP customer for 23 years and had a number of insurance policies in place, including life insurance.

"The whole reason [he] had a life insurance policy was to protect his family if something happened to him," says his former wife Sue Dishington.

The pair were married for 22 years before separating in March 2013, their marriage falling apart as a result of Mr Dishington's then-unknown illness.

"He had a great relationship with his children, he loved his children, he was always there to offer his support and wisdom to the kids," Ms Dishington said.

However, after first becoming sick in 2010 his insurance policies started to lapse, and as he was the only one in control of the family's finances, they didn't find out until after his death.

Mr Dishington's life insurance policy, worth at least $700,000, lapsed four months before his death.

When the family went to AMP to claim retrospectively, they were declined - the insurer saying it can only pay out claims if an insured event happens while cover is in place.

"In this case AMP is unable to pay out as David's policies had lapsed well before he died," AMP told Newshub.

"The policies had terminated because David stopped paying his premiums and did not start paying them again, despite being given warning notices and grace periods.

"We acknowledge that this case comprised a certain set of circumstances that converged to create a level of complexity, however, insurers can only operate on the basis of facts as they occur."

However, the family believes the policy should be paid out on compassionate grounds because Mr Dishington's undiagnosed tumour affected his behaviour - including his ability to keep up with his insurance payments.

Lawyer Andrew Hooker, who has been working alongside the Dishingtons since 2014, says the family has a strong case.

"Just morally it seems wrong that they [AMP] can take such an opportunist approach to what clearly is a genuine situation," he says.

"What killed [David] was the reason why he didn't pay the premium. Though no one knew it at the time."

Mr Dishington first visited the doctor in 2010 when his health and judgement started to deteriorate.

At the same time he was being treated for regular sinus infection that he had had for several years - that infection turned out to be the undiagnosed brain tumour.

The malignant tumour was only revealed in the coroner's autopsy after Mr Dishington's death.

The report said "he was very likely to have had recent headaches, possibly other seizures and possibly significant behaviour or personality change in recent months".

Ms Dishington says the autopsy, as well as other medical professionals, suggested her former husband could have been affected by the tumour for at least three to four years.

Despite the three-and-a-half-year battle with AMP, the Dishington family say they won't give up their fight.

AMP says it empathises with the family's situation but considers the case closed unless new information comes to hand.