With “Sicko,” his new documentary, Michael Moore wants to scare Americans into accepting a single-payer, Canadian-style health-care system. As a Canadian citizen living near Washington, D.C., and an intern at a nonprofit organization, I can tell you why Mr. Moore’s vision should terrify Americans.
“Sicko” won’t tell you about Janice Fraser, but she’s only one of the many victims of Canadian health care, a system like the one Mr. Moore and Democrats John Edwards and Hillary Clinton want to bring to the United States. Janice could tell you why Americans should avoid going down this road. So could I. I’m from Janice’s own political district; her story could easily have been my own. She is 32, but now she has difficulty leaving her house.
In order to function, Janice’s bladder required installation of a device to stimulate it with small electrical shocks. In the United States, the surgery could be performed quickly. In Canada, there was a three-year wait. This is mainly because the only available surgeon who could perform it in Janice’s province was legally limited to 12 such procedures a year. Twelve — and more than 30 people were already on the waiting list.
Without the surgery, Janice had to endure the daily pain and indignity of a catheter. Like all Canadians, Janice is not permitted to spend her own money on health care. In 1984, the year the federal Canada Health Act sailed through the House of Commons, Canada joined the ranks of Cuba and North Korea in criminalizing individual expenditure on health care. Janice could not use her own funds or those of friends and supporters to have the operation performed more quickly.
Janice appealed to Ted Arnott, her member of provincial Parliament, for assistance. In the legislature, Mr. Arnott brought her situation to the attention of George Smitherman, the minister of health. Mr. Smitherman refused to talk about it and called Mr. Arnott “disgusting” for even raising the issue.
Meanwhile, her fate out of her control, Janice slowly moved up the waiting list, each day full of pain and misery.
But the wait was too long. As a result of infection from long-term use of the catheter, Janice’s bladder had to be removed. For the rest of her life she will wear a plastic bag on her abdomen to capture the urine her only kidney produces. The other kidney has already been removed.
As Janice’s urologist reported to the Toronto Sun, Canada’s health-care waiting lists are compiled on a “first come, first served” basis. But everyone in Canada knows there are ways to line-jump — at least for politicians and other public figures. Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Autoworkers Union and an avid supporter of socialized medicine, managed to get an MRI in 24 hours when he broke his leg. The median wait time for an MRI in Canada is about 10 weeks, but Mr. Hargrove has the right political connections. If Canadian-style health care came to the United States, does anyone think those in Congress will wait in line for treatment?
If Janice were well-heeled or politically connected, she might very well have received the surgery she needed. But she is neither rich nor powerful nor friends with the prime minister. She is one of us, victimized by a health-care system that forbids her from helping herself.
Messrs. Arnott and Smitherman are still chattering away in Parliament. They haven’t been held to account. There is no one for Janice Fraser to sue, no one she could hold responsible for the damage done to her life.
Rationing of health-care services is a fact of life in Canada. According to the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia, an operation as simple as a tonsillectomy can take a wait of more than a year-and-a-half in some provinces. Yet, because veterinarian services are still private, a golden retriever can get an MRI more easily in Canada than a human being.
Canadians are coming to realize our experiment in single-payer, government-run health care has been a disaster. Janice and thousands like her have paid the price for this failure. Just don’t expect Mr. Edwards, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Moore to tell you about them.
But every American needs to know, lest he or she becomes a victim like Janice Fraser.
TERRENCE C. WATSON
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