Monday, July 27, 2009

Canadian Healthcare

A number of ads have appeared on television recently, warning of the horrors of a Canadian-like healthcare system in the US. These ads play on the conventional wisdom that the Canadian healthcare system is so bad that gravely ill people are forced to wait in line; that these people frequently must choose between death and paying out-of-pocket for a trip to the United States and treatment there. Meet Shona Holmes, who testified a few weeks ago before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:



I confess, I generally ignore the conventional wisdom that the Canadian Healthcare system is so bad that people die while waiting in line. It seems to me that, like the babysitter that microwaves the dog, everyone knows someone who knows a Canadian who nearly died. But, because I tend to ignore this meme, it never occurred to me to investigate it. Fortunately, On the Media did just that.

On this weekend’s show, On the Media interviewed Maureen Taylor, the National Health and Medical reporter for CBC Television. Taylor expressed surprise at the negative portrayal of the Canadian Healthcare system in American media, claiming that a majority of Canadians have a favorable disposition to their healthcare. Taylor then debunked Shona Holmes’ ballyhooed claim that, had she not escaped the catastrophe of Canadian care, she would have died. According to Taylor, Holmes’ brain tumor was in fact a cyst on her pituitary gland. It was not cancerous and, according to Taylor, not life threatening. In fact, as Taylor pointed out in her interview, all the relevant information about Ms. Holmes’ condition is available at the Mayo Clinic’s website. The Mayo Clinic describes Holmes’ ailment thus:

Dr. Naresh Patel, neurosurgeon, diagnosed Holmes as having a Rathke's cleft cyst (RCC). The rare, fluid-filled sac grows near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and eventually can cause hormone and vision problems.
Rather than life threatening, Dr. Patel “was concerned that the pressure on Shona’s nervers [sic] was causing her to become blind . . . we needed to remove the cyst to save her vision.” While, Ms. Holmes was doubtlessly uncomfortable, contrary to her claim, the five or six month wait would not have killed her. Ms. Holmes illustrates the manifold problems of relying on anecdotal evidence.

Never mind, the conversation in the States is not about grafting a Canadian-like healthcare system onto Columbia.

No comments: