Health Care Going to the Dogs as Alberta Judge Denies Charter Challenge
Residents in Alberta can purchase private health insurance for medical services for their dogs, but it remains a crime to purchase it for themselves or members of their family. On March 31, 2014 an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge dismissed a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge brought forward by patient Darcy Allen. The judge cited a lack of evidence showing how the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act causes a deprivation of the Charter “…right to life, liberty and security of the person…”
In 2009, Darcy Allen was forced to leave the country for timely access to surgery he needed to improve his health and quality of life. Would he have had to leave the country if he were allowed to purchase private health care insurance for medically necessary services in Alberta?
At the court hearing of this case last October, the lawyer for the Alberta Government admitted that the government does not collect information about the pain and suffering of patients on waiting lists for public health care. She also stated that there is no right to benefits from social programs. The Alberta Health Care Insurance Act erects both financial and bureaucratic barriers to medical services. What is a patient to do when access to medical care is based on a government’s ability to pay? What is a patient to do when personal health care choices are left to the discretion of civil servants? Freedom of choice does not exist when there are no alternative options available.
Justice Jeffrey’s denial doesn’t change the fact that in Alberta, much like the rest of Canada, your dog has better access to health care than you do.