Now in his eighties, Dr Marius Barnard is still campaigning to improve medical and financial health through insurance. Edward Murray talks to the father of critical illness policies.
Recovering from recent major surgery and having struggled against prostate cancer since before the turn of the millennium, Dr Marius Barnard is taking life a little slower these days.
However his brain still bubbles with ways of improving people's quality of life and strengthening the fragile marriage that exists between their medical and financial health.
At the age of 83 Dr Barnard is no less the radical now than he was when he helped perform the world's first human-to-human heart transplant back in 1967 or when dreamt up and helped design the first critical illness policy sold in 1983.
In fact it is obvious from the urgency in his speech that Dr Barnard still has a lot to offer, in spite of his diminishing health.
The most recent fruit of his ongoing labour is an autobiography - Defining Moments -that landed on UK bookshelves last month.
Split into four parts, the book deals with his heritage, his medical career, his life in politics as a member of the South African Parliament between 1980 and 1989 and his crusade to create and promote critical illness insurance.
Dr Barnard is clearly a remarkable man who has been hugely successful in his various fields of endeavour. But looking back on his life and particularly with regard to his contribution to the insurance market, how satisfied is he at the way critical illness has evolved and how would he like to see things unfold in the years ahead?
"When we developed the product, everybody said it would never pay out and eventually of course insurers paid out too much. Insurers then changed the definitions and for some of them you need to have a medical degree just to find out when the policy will pay.
"I think it has become complicated, but still the fact is that people buy it and the insurance pays out and that is all I am interested in.
"Quite often I have discovered that the financial adviser who sells the product does not understand the product either. If the financial adviser is selling a product that they do not understand then how can the client understand it?
"However I think there have been tremendous strides made in this area. The big thing is that when a client buys this product they must know exactly what they are buying and in the beginning this was not achieved. As a result there was unhappiness with claims.
"In the UK especially I think this problem has been addressed and to the credit of British companies it has really moved forward."
Dr Barnard's feelings are backed up by figures from the Association of British Insurers that show just how far UK providers have come with regard to paying out on critical illness policies.
In 2005 80% of critical illness claims were paid, leaving one in five claimants out in the cold. However in 2008, the industry was paying out on 90% of claims and since then the figure has continued to rise with individual insurers now reporting pay out percentages on critical illness of around 95%.
Dr Barnard takes delight in this progress and is not for a moment deterred by the falling number of product sales that have been seen in the critical illness market over the last 10 years.
In fact he thinks the fall in numbers is entirely reasonable and he says: "When we started there was a big pool that was untapped and that is diminishing. There is also the financial climate to think about and I am still very impressed there are over 500,000 policies sold a year. I think these are still excellent figures."
However, despite his own personal campaigning and that done by the wider protection market, there are many who still fall into the camp of believing a critical illness will not affect them in their lifetime.
Dr Barnard admits that he does not readily understand this point of view and with characteristic candour he says: "I find the attitude: ‘It won't happen to me', difficult to understand. The worldwide and well known statistics on illness prove that it will happen to you and so I think that is just a bluff to cover up the fact that people do not want to buy it. Of course it will happen to you."
However this is no reason for insurers and intermediaries to sit back and he adds: "If a client says, ‘It will not happen to me', then just ask him how many of his friends and relatives have been affected by a critical illness and you will see he immediately understands what it is about."
Despite his successes, Dr Barnard is not one to plump up the cushions and see out his retirement quietly. He is already looking ahead to the next protection product that will be required to meet the changing needs of our ageing population.
Holding court he explains: "There are a lot of signs that cardiovascular heart attacks are diminishing, but with an ageing population cancer is increasing. The older people get the higher are their chances of cancer and so now the switch is from cardio vascular to cancer.
"The way medical treatment is advancing leads to new problems and the major one is old age.
"Life insurance was needed because young people died. Critical illness was needed because people survived. Today the policy that the world should concentrate on is long term care.
"We are getting older and older and more people need care. To me it is unbelievable that so few companies sell long term care in the UK. This is the product of the future and insurers cannot just sit still."
Ready to confront the naysayers, Dr Barnard believes it would actually be very easy to combine people's current critical illness needs with their future long term care needs and he says: "You see the problem is very easy to solve. You can let critical illness flow into long term care and if you do not need the critical illness policy then at the age of 65 it then becomes a long term care policy."
It is the way that Dr Barnard so quickly and readily looks to the future that makes him so engaging. Beyond the simple need for long term care insurance, he is also quick to explore just how this cover will be paid for and how people will be encouraged to take it up.
He says: "I cannot believe that big companies that sponsor young people to play soccer and rugby with billions of pounds do not provide any sponsorship to care for older people who have done their share. That to me is very sad.
"You get all of these banks and insurance companies that spend billions of pounds to sponsor younger people, but not to be able to get money to care for old people who have served their country seems to me like quite a sin - it is evil. Why not keep some of the money for sponsorship of old people and give them a decent, dignified old age?
"There is a Barclays soccer league - why not have a Barclays old age home? You need government and big business to help. It cannot be left to the individual who cannot afford that expense."
And why shouldn't the elderly be worthy of sponsorship and financial support? Leaving aside the moral responsibility we have to our elderly, the army of retired people is growing and becoming an increasingly important sector of our society.
However if we chose to ignore the various societal issues that accompany our ageing demographic, Dr Barnard is in no doubt of the riot we will reap as a result.
As he says: "With the elderly ageing population we are sitting on a kind of medical and financial tsunami and it is going to cause such havoc that no country will be able to afford it."
The energy and passion Dr Barnard has for his subject is highly infectious and hugely engaging and with better health and a few less miles on the clock it is difficult to believe he would not make long term care a mainstream product in the UK protection market.
As he says: "I am an old man now; I am a sick man. But if I was young, I would stomp the world to promote long term care."
Dr Barnard may no longer be on the road promoting protection insurance as a way of patching up the tempestuous relationship between medical and financial health, but hopefully his passion will inspire for many years to come.
The Big Interview
Total of 16 providers
‘Either write it or refer it. Do not ignore it’
'We've seen a lot of changes over that time'