The Intrepid Explorer has gone for a nap and allowed her personal typist (me) an opportunity to write a post. She loaned me these photographs so if you’d rather ignore the totally off topic content, feel free. I’ve been thinking about something way too much lately and I’m going to use this blog to express a personal opinion.
I live in Canada. It’s not a perfect country but we like it. One of the things we hold dear is the idea that people have a right to healthcare. Our system isn’t perfect either, but my own experience with both it and the alternative offered to the south of us convinces me that some rights shouldn’t be ignored and I’ll stay with what we have.
I’m going to tell you a couple of very different stories, not about what I encountered myself (although they’d make a good episode for Twilight Zone), but more dramatically what happened to two people I care about. Their (abbreviated) tales are illustrative of the different choices our societies have made.
About 12 years ago my brother-in-law started to have difficulty breathing. He was in his early forties, a non-smoker, social drinker, and recreational hockey player. The morning after this started my sister convinced him to see their Doctor, and this is a summary of what happened over the next 8 hours:
- The Doctor examined him and rushed him to the local emergency ward.
- They examined him and put him in an ambulance to the main hospital in Vancouver.
- The team at VGH did a heart biopsy. The pathologist recognized something which at the time was typically diagnosed post-mortem↑.
- Due to the advanced state of the disease, the medical team figured he had hours to live (my sister hadn’t absorbed the seriousness at this point and was asking how much time they should tell his boss he’d be off work).
- The Doctor in charge of the team punted. He called the transplant team at St. Paul’s and asked if they had any suggestions.
- The head of the transplant group said that they had a theory, but that’s all it was, they had never tried it. The Doctor said we’ll take it – so the guys at St. Paul’s put together an extremely expensive drug cocktail and sent it over.
- It worked. Although it couldn’t be cured, the drugs stopped the progression of the disease.
He got attention from 3 different hospitals and his personal physician with no waiting time. He got an experimental treatment with no bureaucratic review process and at no stage did they have to fill out forms promising to mortgage their futures to ensure care.
He was transferred to St. Paul’s and about 6 months later had a heart transplant. I saw him last week – he’s doing really well.
A few months after they started him on the treatment (which is now standard for his type of this disease) the head of the team got a call from the provincial health ministry wondering why they were giving anti-rejection drugs (part of the experimental cocktail) to somebody who hadn’t had a transplant. The reply was “to keep him alive until we get a donor heart for him”. The answer was accepted without argument and there was no attempt to interfere or halt the treatment and all the costs were covered.
Earlier this year an American friend of mine started having radiating pain and numbness in his shoulder (he didn’t tell any of us, we only found this out later). He knew exactly what it meant but he didn’t have health insurance, and he was terrified of medical bills, so he didn’t do anything about it.
One morning he changed a tire on his car and then went to work. When he arrived he was bright red and sweating profusely. He went to the washroom, had a massive heart attack, and died. He was 34.
With that in mind, I find the second paragraph in this article↑ ingenuous and offensive.
I’ll say again that our system isn’t perfect. But, and it’s a big but, nobody avoids the Doctor because of money.
I don’t care if you want to call us socialists. My brother-in-law is alive because our system worked for him. If my friend had been Canadian, in a country that believes in Universal Healthcare, he’d be alive too. That, to me, is the bottom line.