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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brian Day and private health clinics take B.C. government to court to expand Chaoulli ruling

Dr. Brian Day, of the private Cambie Surgery Centre and former president of the Canadian Medical Association, along with other private surgery clinics in British Columbia, have leveled a lawsuit against the provincial government in an attempt to make it legal for regular folk to spend their own money on their own health care. Currently, the Canada Health Act permits RCMP officers, federal prisoners, recipients of workers compensation, and a few others, to make use of private surgery centres. The rest of us can't. And the rest of us wait. And wait. And wait.

The goal is to expand the 2005 Supreme Court Chaoulli ruling where the Court ruled that Quebec's prohibition on regular people spending their own money of private medicine violated the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I wrote the Western Standard's cover story, entitled "Freedom Fighter," about the Chaoulli case (published before the ruling came down). You can also read our Question Period with Dr. Jacques Chaoulli here.

The Vancouver Sun reports:

The plaintiffs will argue that the 2005 Chaoulli Supreme Court of Canada case should be applicable in B.C. In that case -- brought by appellants Jacques Chaoulli, a doctor, and George Zeliotis, a patient -- the highest court struck down Quebec's ban on private insurance for medically necessary services. The private clinics are expected to argue that citizens should be allowed to buy private health insurance to use in private clinics if their operative care is not delivered in a timely manner in the public system.

The action against the health minister, attorney-general and the medical services commission is expected to ask for a declaration that sections of the Medicare Protection Act violate the rights of citizens.

Health Minister George Abbott declined to comment Tuesday, but in the past he has pointed to Quebec's private clinics to argue that private clinics already existing in B.C. may not be seen by the federal government as breaching Canada Health Act statutes. The Chaoulli ruling found that Quebecers' rights under the Quebec charter of rights were being violated by long waits for medical care in the public system.

"In essence, the question is whether Quebecers who are prepared to spend money to get access to health care that is, in practice, not accessible in the public sector because of waiting lists may be validly prevented from doing so by the state," read Justice Marie Deschamps's reasons for the decision. "I find that the prohibition infringes the right to personal inviolability and that it is not justified by a proper regard for democratic values, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Quebec."

This new court case brings the number of current legal cases attempting to expand the ruling in Chaoulli to three. The Canadian Constitution Foundation is currently working on expanding the ruling in Ontario (McCreith & Holmes v. Ontario) and Alberta (William Murray v. Alberta). You can contribute to the CCF here.

Meanwhile, you can watch a video of Brian Day's brilliant final speech as president here. It's worth watching and listening to.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on January 29, 2009 in Health care reform | Permalink


Who would be surprised to see a cruise (hospital) ship dock at a Canadian port, take on sick passengers, go to sea, perform medical treatment, and return to the Canadian port...?

Posted by: dewp | 2009-01-29 9:01:15 PM

Like this?


Posted by: Jim | 2009-01-30 5:54:27 AM

Jim: Have you seen the line-ups on Black Monday? You give away anything "for free" and you get huge lines. And that's the point with Canada's system.

While in Kentucky you get a crazy line like that when they give away health care free of charge at the point of service, we get lines like that every day. And for the same reason.

America's health care system is a mess. Canada's health care system is a mess. Why would you think that anyone wants to trade a mess in for a mess? The Supreme Court justices had no patience for silly "two-tier care is American-style care" arguments and neither should the rest of us.

Chaoulli, Day, the private surgery clinics, the Canadian Constitution Foundation, the Fraser Institute, etc. are not arguing for a system like America's. There's a whole world out there, Jim, and there are more than two countries in it.

Of course, it's easier to pull out the American bogeyman than to look more carefully at France, Portugal, Oman, Japan, Germany, Norway, Sweden, etc. (all better than Canada and the U.S. according to the World Health Organization).

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-01-30 7:31:08 AM

Those that oppose the right of someone to seek market-driven health care within their own country are engaging in the politics of hatred and envy and are no better than union thugs.

No health care system is perfect but Canada's hypocritical state run monopoly is a disgrace despite PMJ's moral equivocation with the US (systems). Even though the States have done their best to screw up US health care, at least no one in the US tells me I can't pay for private insurance or negotiate directly with doctors for reduced rates for procedures with the carrot of cash over billing delays / deficiencies. Even a distorted market is better than no market.

As for the benefits of various European systems which allow for parallel private and public systems, I can certainly conceive of them being preferable to Canada but ideologically defensible as more "conservative" than libertarian.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-01-30 12:08:56 PM

America system of healthcare is not great. But if the Canadian system makes people suffer because they dont have the resources it doesnt make sense that those who have funds can get sorted by crossing the border. Why cant we have treatment in Canada we dont have to reduce funding to Medicare because someone has reduced the waiting list out of their own funds.

Posted by: Phil Berbatov | 2009-01-31 1:53:29 AM

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