Why it’s Time to Pull the Plug on Single-Payer Health Care
Two patient cases receiving media attention in recent months serve to illustrate the true impact of our single-payer health care system on the personal health care decisions of Canadians.
Isaac and Rebecka May have obtained a court injunction temporarily stopping the Alberta government from pulling the plug on medical care for their infant son. The Mays received a letter on January 13, 2010, indicating that the treating physicians at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton would be discontinuing life support to their baby boy Isaiah James May on January 20, 2010.
Baby Isaiah experienced severe oxygen deprivation and brain damage following a difficult 40-hour labour and delivery at Rocky Mountain House Hospital in October 2009. He was airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton and placed on a ventilator. The May family believes their son is improving and asked the court for a 90-day extension to his care. They originally received a one week reprieve but on January 27, 2010, Madame Justice Michelle Crighton provided another time extension giving the May family until February 19, 2010 to obtain an assessment by an independent medical expert.
The Bigelow family from British Columbia is facing a similar situation. Their 33-year-old son Christopher, a medical graduate turned patient, suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident in November 2007. Doctors considered his condition “hopeless” and both the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities denied him access to rehabilitative programs. In March 2009 Christopher’s father Kevin Bigelow moved him from Surrey Memorial Hospital to the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in Alberta.
Less than a year later, the Ministry of Health Services in British Columbia informed the Bigelow family that funding for Christopher’s care would be terminated effective January 15, 2010. The government made this decision despite the written recommendations from doctors in British Columbia and Alberta supporting the continuation of treatment at the Alberta facility. After the story gained public attention, the Ministry decided to continue to fund Christopher’s out-of-province treatment while they assemble an appropriate rehabilitative program in British Columbia at which time he must return home for care.
Both the May and Bigelow families are now embroiled in highly politicized fights for access to medical care funded by our single-payer, government-run health care system. Ultimately, it is a fight over funds in a system that goes so far as to legally prohibit its citizens from paying for the medically necessary services they require. This loss of freedom in personal health care decisions means that it is Canadian patients and their families who continue to bear the greatest personal cost for our single-payer health care system.
There are 34 million potential reasons why it’s time to pull the plug on single-payer health care. How many more cases do you need to hear about before making your decision?