Psychologists call the delusion of attributing your own faults to others, while denying them in yourself, “projection.” Maybe this explains why government lawyers in British Columbia are trying to blame doctors for long health care waiting lists, rather than admitting the obvious: that waiting times are the product of deliberate government rationing of resources.
The setting for this attack is a constitutional challenge brought by four former patients and a private clinic seeking greater patient choice for Canadians suffering on waiting lists. Their case is straightforward: if the government will not provide timely medical treatment for all patients, then it cannot legally prohibit patients from taking control of their own health care and arranging treatment privately.
For the last few weeks, several doctors have taken the stand to testify about the problems their patients face getting timely medical treatment in the public system. The existence of these waiting lists is beyond dispute.
Stories of patients suffering acute physical pain, mental distress, and financial hardship while waiting many months or years for surgery are well-known and official statistics back up them up.
The reason for the waiting lists is also clear. Provincial health care budgets are not based on either patient demand for treatment or available medical resources, so when the quota of procedures the government is prepared to pay for is filled, anyone still waiting is out of luck.
Even when doctors are available and willing to treat them, they are legally prohibited from doing so.
Knowing this, you can see why many doctors feel the government’s strategy of trying to pin patients’ suffering on their doctors crosses the line between brazen and downright offensive.
But the government’s hostile cross-examinations are no accident. This has been their strategy from the beginning of the case.
The government knows that health care waiting lists are the result of an artificial, government-created scarcity. It knows that some operating rooms are closed up to half the time and that many surgeons are legally limited to only one or two work days a week as a result of government budgeting decisions.
And yet its lawyers insist, in defiance of this reality, that the patients’ “pain or suffering was not caused by the [the state health care monopoly], but by decisions made by, and actions taken or not taken by, their treating physicians.”
That is from the Crown’s statement of defence, which also claims that, if the “treating physicians, or some of them, had exercised their professional judgment appropriately, and taken advantage of options that are and were available to them within the public health care system, the unnecessary or unreasonable pain or suffering of which the Patient Plaintiffs complain could have been treated appropriately in the public system.”
I honestly don’t know how these highly-trained and dedicated professionals have maintained their cool on the stand while government lawyers repeatedly questioned their competence and devotion to their patients.
Ask any Canadian doctor and they will tell you about the hours they spend each week working the health care system to get their patients the care they need. But no amount of lever-pulling or advocacy can find a patient a treatment slot that doesn’t exist. Such is the reality of statist health care rationing.
The government’s scapegoating of doctors for the predictable results of the legal limitations the state health care monopoly imposes on them requires psychological projection on a truly mammoth scale. And if the strategy is not actually delusional, then its cynicism is disgraceful.
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