76% of Canadians agree that the Charter should allow patients who have been on provincial healthcare wait lists longer than the maximum recommended waiting period for their condition to pay for private treatment. Despite this, in most of Canada the government effectively bans you from spending your own money on necessary health care, even if you are stuck on a waiting list in critical condition.
In 2004, eight-year-old Walid Khalfallah of Kelowna, BC was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition.
Walid’s family always believed in Canada’s public health care system, and trusted that Walid would get the care he needed.
But he spent two and a half years on waiting lists. While he waited, the curvature of his spine got worse and worse, and his health deteriorated.
When Walid’s health couldn’t wait any longer, his family went outside the public health care system to get him the care he needed.
But help came too late, and Walid ended up paralyzed.
Canada is the only developed country where this could happen to a child. In BC, it is illegal to go outside the public medical system to get timely treatment and help, unless you leave the province. Together with our patient plaintiffs, the Canadian Constitution Foundation is going to court to challenge this unjust, health-destroying law.
Walid’s health couldn’t wait—and neither can yours.
"Access to a waiting list is not access to health care." ~ Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin
Cambie Surgeries Corporation et al. v. Medical Services Commission et al. is a constitutional challenge currently underway in British Columbia to bring patient choice to Canada’s healthcare system. The goal is to help patients suffering on long and growing wait lists by allowing them to take control of their own healthcare and get the timely treatment that is their right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of life, liberty, and security of the person.
In the 2005 case of Chaoulli v. Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the rights of Quebec residents were violated by provincial laws that forced citizens to wait for healthcare, while denying them the right to access care outside of the government system. All Canadians should have the same protection. But, despite the fact that three Supreme Court justices found that Quebec's restrictions on access to private healthcare violated the federal Charter, Chaoulli was ultimately decided on the narrower grounds of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, so the ruling was confined to that province.
If the plaintiffs in this case succeed, patients in British Columbia currently suffering physical pain, mental anguish, and financial hardship while waiting on long wait lists will be able to take control of their own health and use private health insurance to pay for treatment for their medically-necessary health services with the doctor of their choice in a timely fashion. The Supreme Court was clear in Chaoulli: if a province has failed in its obligation to provide timely healthcare to all its residents within the public healthcare system, then it cannot prohibit suffering patients from accessing that care privately. That is the principle the plaintiffs are fighting for in this case.
After visiting her doctor with an urgent health concern, this mother of two from Langley was told she’d have to wait seven months before she could get a colonoscopy. Unsatisfied, Mandy sought medical attention outside the BC health care system only to discover that she had stage four cancer. Had Mandy waited for seven months, it is likely that she would have died.
When she was 16-years-old, Krystiana, a high school athlete from Vancouver, severely injured her knee. Due to BC’s rationing of health care services, Krystiana was forced to wait over a year before she received medically necessary surgical treatment for her injury. Waiting this long undermined her chances to receive a soccer scholarship to a Canadian university.
Erma was 76 years old and living in South Surrey when she was told she would have to wait three years for knee surgery. Without surgery, she risked losing her independence and her quality of life. Erma was not satisfied with this option so she sought out and received surgery within one week at a private facility. Sadly, Erma passed away waiting for this court case to-begin.
Chris was a high school student in Burnaby who suffered a debilitating injury in a Physical Education class. The pain suffered by Chris forced him to withdraw from his favourite activities and prevented him from focusing on his school work. After waiting more than eight months just to see a specialist, his parents sought private care.
This case is vitally important to all Canadians. Right now, it is effectively illegal for most Canadians to purchase healthcare for themselves or their families when the public system makes them wait too long. Canada is the only developed country in the world with this legal prohibition. Sweden, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands: they all provide universal public healthcare without banning private insurance or prohibiting doctors from working in both the public and the private healthcare system.
Canada has the dubious distinction of being the only country in which patients suffering physical pain, mental anguish, or loss of employment while they wait months or even years for treatment have no other options and no other choices. The cases on this site show that waiting too long for medically-necessary surgeries and procedures has a real impact on patients’ health and on their families. That is why this case is so important – and we need your support.
Please add your name to the growing list of Canadians supporting the constitutional rights of suffering patients by making a donation to help fund our court challenge. This is an enormous case that will take many months of court time and involve evidence from close to 100 witnesses. It is, without exaggeration, the most serious challenge yet to the inefficient and out-dated government monopoly on healthcare in Canada -- and it is the best chance to bring real change and improvements to the system. Every donation helps.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is a registered charity, independent and non-partisan. A receipt for tax purposes will be provided for all donations in excess of $25. We need your financial support to fund this important case. We depend entirely on voluntary donations, so your help will make a real difference. Please contribute today.
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