On her death bed, 18-year-old Leukemia patient Laura Hillier made her mom promise one thing:
“She made me promise she would not die in vain,” said her mother Frances Hillier. “I am going to carry it on.”
So Frances Hillier is determined that nobody else in Canada will die waiting for a stem-cell transplant that could have saved her life.
Laura- who lives in Ontario – was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13, and was put on an aggressive round of treatment. She experienced a few childhood milestones before succumbing to the disease earlier this year – but it didn’t have to happen.
The socialized medicine in Canada that rations out health care kept Laura for receiving the treatment she needs. Laura’s hospital told her they had about 30 bone marrow matches, but the Juravinski Hospital didn’t have enough beds in the high-air-pressure rooms for the procedure and the staff to perform the operation.
The problem is only getting worse. Despite having a wait list of patients and perfect matches, Canadians like Laura are dying because the government hasn’t increased funding to pay for demand.
It’s not isolated to Ontario. The Toronto Star found long wait times in cities like Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The wait time has grown from six months to one year.
And that’s what happened to Laura. She was put on a waiting list and forced to undergo round after round of chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay.
She wouldn’t give up. Last summer, she told The Star she wasn’t giving up. “Knowing there is a big army fighting with me fighting this cancer is really helping me through it,” she said. “I have people and parents fighting for me, but other people don’t and this is an issue that needs to be resolved . . . I’m not quitting now.”
After the fifth round, though her mind was sharp as a tack, her body couldn’t take it anymore.
The 18-year-old graduate of Nelson High school and aspiring actress died surrounded by her family. The hospital tried for 90 minutes to revive her.
“They knew her wishes, she did not want to die,” he mom said. “Her brain was sharp as a tack… She was so mad at her body for giving up on her.”
“She would say, ‘Mom if I ever say I want to give up, you have to not let me.’ Most of the time all she told physicians and staff was, ‘I want to live. I need to live. Please help me. Please don’t give up on me.’”
Her body may have given up on her, but Canada has given up on so many like her. So many who die because the government is responsible for doling out medical treatment to people like Laura.
Just before her death, Laura recorded this message:
“. . . I’m in the ICU . . .
I can’t breathe. Soon, a tube will be stuck down my throat again. And for feeding as well.
And I won’t be able to talk.
They said I may not wake up but I really hope I do.
But if I don’t, I hope this never happens to anyone ever again.
And that the government sees that there needs to be funding. Because people are dying when we can save them. We can save these people. Please help.
This case and many others show how single-payer health care is failing overseas.
Two weeks ago, Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced a bill that would effectively allow some Americans to buy into Medicare, Investor’s Business Daily reports.
Other congressional Democrats favor an even more aggressive expansion of the program. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., recently proposed dropping the program’s eligibility age from 65 to 55. Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled a full-blown “Medicare-for-All” single-payer plan, which promptly attracted 16 co-sponsors.
These lawmakers need a reality check. The single-payer systems they idolize are imploding in Canada and the United Kingdom. Patients are dying, costs are skyrocketing and people are fleeing to seek care elsewhere.
It’d be madness to replicate these failing models in America.
Canada’s single-payer system is plagued by rationing. The median patient must wait 20 weeks after receiving a referral from a general practitioner until receiving treatment from a specialist. Canadians who need neurosurgery typically wait 47 weeks — nearly a full year — between referral and treatment.
Even simple procedures entail long delays. Patients wait almost four weeks for CT scans. Canada only has 15 CT scanners per million people. That’s 22nd out of 28 countries, according to a recent Fraser Institute report comparing the accessibility of various health care services in advanced nations.
The quality of treatment at Canada’s hospitals is tragically poor. Earlier this year, a patient in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest hospital spent six hours in a cold hallway with a broken IV in his vein before finally seeing a doctor. He died several hours later.
Conditions are so bad that several citizens are suing the government for the right to opt out of the single-payer system. Right now, it is illegal to buy private insurance plans that cover doctor visits, hospital stays or other services provided by the single-payer system.
A group of surgeons and their patients are challenging this prohibition. The case is currently before British Columbia’s Supreme Court. If the plaintiffs win, British Columbians could finally have an alternative to single-payer. The ruling could also set a precedent for the rest of the country.
The plaintiff in a similar 2005 lawsuit, Chaoulli v. Quebec, prevailed. But a 2014 suit in Alberta failed.
It’s no wonder that over 60,000 left the country in 2016 to seek non-urgent treatment elsewhere in the world.
Despite the obvious shortcomings of the British and Canadian systems, some progressives still view single-payer as the pinnacle of health care policy — a model so perfect it hardly needs defending. Sen. Sanders has said that it’s an “international embarrassment” that America hasn’t followed other developed nations in embracing socialized medicine.
What’s truly embarrassing is that members of Congress, not to mention leaders in several states, keep pushing for single-payer in the United States even though it’s failed everywhere else it has been tried.