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Karin’s husband wrote to MPs at the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag, but received only one reply. Photograph: Wdnet Studio/Alamy
Karin’s husband wrote to MPs at the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag, but received only one reply. Photograph: Wdnet Studio/Alamy

Paralysed Swedish woman in London cannot return home due to bureaucracy

52-year-old, in hospital for more than a year after bike accident, wants to be repatriated but is not listed as a resident in Sweden

A Swedish woman left paralysed after a catastrophic bike accident has been stranded in a London hospital for more than a year after efforts to repatriate her to her home country failed due to Stockholm bureaucracy.

The situation, described by her husband as “shameful”, comes following a similar case in which authorities threatened to deport a 74-year-old British woman with Alzheimer’s because of strict adherence to Brexit red tape.

Karin*, 52, a polling company executive, had been living in London for more than 25 years when she sustained a severe brain injury from hitting her head on the pavement after coming off her bike last March.

Her injuries are so severe that she has spent the past year being moved from one intensive care unit and one hospital to another, requiring a series of life-saving surgeries and procedures.

She is now in a high-dependency unit in a London hospital but her husband, Tom, wants to take her home to Sweden where he, Karin and their 12-year-old son could be close to her mother and three siblings.

Karin must be in Sweden to be relisted as a resident, but cannot be transferred because of her condition. Photograph: Guardian exclusive courtesy of family.

But because she has lived out of the country for so long she has fallen off Sweden’s official population register and cannot be considered eligible for care in its healthcare system.

Her husband has been told he can present documents to get her relisted as resident in Sweden on her behalf but only when his wife, who cannot walk or talk, is physically in the country.

In a shattering catch-22 situation the NHS cannot transfer her to the Swedish healthcare system because hospitals there cannot receive a patient who is not on the population register.

The family’s local MP, Labour’s Helen Hayes, who has been supporting them since January, described the case as shocking.

“Karin’s accident was a terrible tragedy which is devastating for Karin and her family. She is currently trapped between two wholly incompatible and inflexible systems.

“This impasse is compounding the family’s suffering,” said Hayes, adding that the case demanded “basic compassion from all sides” to find a solution for an extremely vulnerable citizen of the country.

She has written to the Europe affairs minister, Leo Docherty, urging him to seek a meeting between UK and Sweden officials “with the hope that both countries can work together outside existing protocols”.

“As this is truly an exceptional case, this will require exceptional actions by both the UK government and the Swedish government, as well as by the NHS and Swedish health professionals,” she wrote.

Sweden’s refusal to allow an exception to the rules for a vulnerable citizen has shocked Karin’s family, and her husband believes many other emigrants from Sweden will be unaware of the consequences of falling off the population register.

“I’ve been with Karin a long time and been to Sweden many times and I was under the impression that Sweden was a compassionate western liberal democracy,” he said.

He said the Foreign, Commonweath and Development Office (FCDO) said it would assist on the costly medical evacuation, support he desperately needs given he has been unable to work since his wife’s accident.

“I am very down about this. I feel this is shameful. Karin is very Swedish and, in many ways, she really loves her country and loves to go back and spend summers there. We had been making plans to retire there in the next year or so and the fact that they’ve so severely let her down is quite awful,” he added.

Tom has dedicated his life to caring for his wife, even writing to 349 MPs at the Riksdag in Sweden. He got a reply from only one, who expressed his sympathy but said he was unable to resolve the situation.

Tom has also wrote to the European Commission and the United Nations office of the High Commission for Human Rights arguing that his wife was being discriminated against as a disabled person. They too have been unable to break the impasse.

The Swedish tax authorities confirmed the rules, saying that a Swedish national could be relisted on the register by a carer once the citizen was in the country.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British-Swedish dual national.”

*Names have been changed as the request of the family

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