Ontario woman starring in U.S. election ad warning of dangers in Canadian-style health care

September 5, 2012

The National Post

A Canadian woman with a tale of dangerously delayed brain surgery is back in the fray of U.S. politics, starring in a $6.3-million, anti-Democrat ad campaign that aims to show the perils of government involvement in health care just weeks before the American election.

The conservative advocacy group that bankrolled the TV spots with Shona Holmes says they are the “final and most dramatic phase” of its recent advertising offensive against President Barack Obama, and has offered up Ms. Holmes for media interviews outside the Democratic national convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Her role in the final stretch of the presidential race comes despite the bitter backlash that Ms. Holmes says she faced from fellow Canadians when her story was first used to combat Obama-led health reform three years ago — and debate about whether the care she got here was as bad as she claimed.

“I’m a grateful neighbour,” she said about her continued involvement. “I think that one thing I’m a little bit embarrassed about as a Canadian is we will sit back and criticize Americans and their system, and yet we slip over the border and get health care.”

The resident of Waterdown, Ont., west of Toronto, sought out diagnosis and surgery for a non-cancerous brain growth in 2005 at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, after facing a wait to see specialists in Canada that she believed could leave her blind, or dead.

The private-insurance-centred system the Democrats are introducing is clearly different from Canada’s single-payer, government-funded health care. Still, the Canadian woman’s experiences starkly illustrate the bureacratic headaches Obamacare could bring U.S. patients, said Levi Russell of Americans for Prosperity – a pro-Republican group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

An advocate for the Canadian system suggested, however, the commercial misrepresents the reality here. Even if Ms. Holmes did fall through the cracks, her case certainly does not represent the norm, insisted Dr. Danielle Martin, spokeswoman for Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

“It’s so unhelpful to the American electorate,” said the Toronto family physician. “This kind of thing just dumbs down the level of debate in both countries.”

The ad states that Ms. Holmes had to choose surgery in the U.S. “to save her life,” and argues that America’s health care would become more like Canada’s under Mr. Obama.

A fuller picture of her medical ordeal emerges in the 2007 document that launched a constitutional challenge by Ms. Holmes and others of Ontario medicare laws.

It says she began suffering headaches, vision problems and other symptoms in March, 2005, with an MRI on May 6 revealing a lesion at the base of her brain. Because of previous endocrine problems she was referred to both an endocrinologist and neurologist, but the appointments were not until Sept. 19 and July 19 respectively.

She finally sought help at the Mayo Clinic, where doctors diagnosed a cyst near the pituitary gland that can cause both vision and hormone problems. The clinic also suggested she had a separate disorder that causes fluctuating hormone levels, and might die because of it if she did not see an endocrinologist quickly.

Back home, she did obtain earlier, June appointments in Ontario with a neurosurgeon and endocrinologist, but neither pressed for speedy action, the suit says.

She returned to Mayo for surgery in August, her vision returning to normal within 10 days.

Some Canadian neurosurgeons have since questioned the urgency of Ms. Holmes’ condition, while Dr. Martin says her patients with pressing neurological problems are usually treated “immediately.”

Ms. Holmes said she has received death threats, required security around her house and even lost friends over her participation in the U.S. political process.

“I used to think that religion, politics and sex were things you weren’t supposed to talk about,” she said. “But in Canada apparently it’s health care.”

Article link: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/09/05/ontario-woman-starring-in-u-s-election-ad-warning-of-dangers-in-canadian-style-health-care/


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