Latest Update: April 1, 2020
Gwyn Morgan: “After this crisis is behind us, we must fix our dangerous health-care system”
The unexpected public health crisis brought on by COVID-19, is quite fairly dominating the news cycle of the world at the moment. What does this mean for us fighting for more freedom and better outcomes in Canadian healthcare? The Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman once said: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.” The Canadian Constitution Foundation’s team was reminded of this quote in reading a recent opinion piece in the Financial Post by Gwyn Morgan on our healthcare systems’ response to this crisis. Canadians should always be fighting to do better, and we should be keeping this in mind even in times of crisis.
We depend on the generous support of Canadians to keep the fight for patient rights going. Please consider donating today. The initial trial in BC has ended, but we expect an appeal in BC regardless of the court’s decision and any money given now will help us pay for future legal fees.
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76% of Canadians agree that the Charter should allow patients who have been on provincial healthcare wait lists longer than the maximum recommended waiting period for their condition to pay for private treatment according to recent Canada-wide polling.
Cambie Surgeries Corporation et al v. Medical Services Commission et al. is a constitutional challenge taking place in British Columbia to bring choice and compassion to Canada’s healthcare system. The goal is to stop the suffering and empower Canadians to care for their own health, as should be their right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of security of the person.
Three of the plaintiffs in this case are teenagers whose young lives have already been negatively shaped by British Columbia’s ban on accessing private care outside the government system. They include Walid Khalfallah, an 18-year-old with progressive spine deformity who was paralyzed after a 27-month wait for care; and 18-year-old Chris Chiavatti, who suffered permanent damage while waiting for treatment of his knee injury. Another plaintiff, 37-year-old Mandy Martens, saw her cancer spread while she languished on a waitlist. Two other British Columbians were originally part of the case, but they died waiting for it to go to trial.
In the 2005 Chaoulli case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the rights of Quebec residents were violated by laws that forced citizens to wait, while denying them the right to access care outside of the government system. All Canadians should have the same protection. But because the Chaoulli case was decided based on the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its effects have been confined to that province.
If the plaintiffs in this case succeed, patients in British Columbia will be free to buy private health insurance and to pay for treatment for all health services (covered by the province or not) with the doctor of their choice. By the same token, private clinics will be free to accept non-government funding for all the health services they offer.
CCF Launch: November 2011
Legal Jurisdiction: British Columbia
Next Key date: Awaiting decision
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