"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.