Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Where are the Heroes in Canadian Health Care?


When I think about people who inspire me in the Canadian health care system I remember the stories of patients who have suffered much and yet were determined to use their experiences to help make some area of our system better. I think about doctors, nurses and other health care providers who have performed medical feats for their patients despite a broken system. I also think about those who have had the courage to diverge from popular opinion and come forward to say “Yes, our system is broken and here are some of the ways we can help fix it.” But perhaps the most inspiring story that comes to mind is one that I consider to be an impetus for change in the Canadian health care system. It is the story of a patient and a doctor who came together to fight for the individual freedoms that each had lost in the abyss of our health care system. Once again, as it once was, two individuals came together to form a relationship to assist each other in the name of medicine. The story involves a struggle that lasted almost a decade with much sacrifice and a triumphant ending. It has the power to bestow upon each of us a renewed responsibility for carrying forth its cause and a profound sense of personal gratitude to the patient and doctor who chose to uphold it.

The story I will tell my child most often when discussing the heroes of Canadian health care will begin with a patient named George Zeliotis and a doctor named Jacques Chaoulli. Might this story include your name? It may very well indeed, for your part of the story has yet to be written.

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition of private insurance for publicly funded health services in the province of Quebec violated both the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision in Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) only applies to the province of Quebec because the appeal made to the Court was based on its provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Legal proceedings regarding this same issue are currently moving through the provincial courts in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

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