Pubdate: Wed, 05 Oct 2011
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2011 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Shaun Francis
Cited: Supreme Court Judgment:

The Insite Decision


While the Supreme Court sanctions Insite, in Ontario, a for-profit 
clinic for newborn babies comes under fire

Thanks to Friday's Supreme Court decision, Vancouver's Insite safe 
injection site is now legal. That's a fascinating development in 
light of regulators' hostility to a comparatively benign, but no less 
innovative, health-care facility, this one located in Whitby, Ont.

The establishment, the Mom and Baby Care Depot, was founded by 
pediatrician Dr. Karen Dockrill. OHIP pays just $32 to a doctor for a 
newborn assessment - which translates into doctor face-time of 
perhaps 10 minutes. To improve that, Dr. Dockrill created a program 
that charged $1,500 annually for a host of baby-related services, 
including two-hour appointments with Dr. Dockrill and her staff. The 
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (effectively a proxy of 
the McGuinty Liberals in the fight against private care) rewarded Dr. 
Dockrill's creativity by charging her with dishonourable conduct. She 
faces a disciplinary hearing next spring.

Here's the thing: The Insite decision hinged on Section 7 of Canada's 
Charter of Rights and Freedoms - the one that guarantees an 
individual's "right to life, liberty and security of the person." But 
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's decision goes further than that. 
It's based on a "right to health" - one the federal government would 
have violated by shutting down Insite and preventing injection drug 
users from accessing the health services offered.

If this right to health allows Canadian junkies to shoot their drugs 
under medical supervision, doesn't the same right to health allow 
Canadian parents to raise their kids under medical supervision? And 
if the public system can't guarantee that right, don't those parents 
have the right to ensure the health of their babies by paying a little extra?

There is no question that the Mom and Baby Depot improved newborn 
health. According to statistics provided by Dr. Dockrill, 90% of 
infants in the general population visit an emergency room before they 
reach six weeks of age. Of the parents who enrolled in Dr. Dockrill's 
program, only 2% went to the ER by six weeks. Only 11% of all 
five-month-old babies in Mom and Baby Depot's Durham region are 
exclusively breast-fed, which promotes long-term health by decreasing 
things like infections. Meanwhile, the proportion of babies 
exclusively breastfed in Dr. Dockrill's practice was 70%.

Back in 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada cited a similar right to 
health in the Chaoulli decision, a Quebec case where an individual 
wanted to purchase a hip replacement that the province couldn't 
provide him with in a reasonable time period. This ruling opened the 
way for Quebecers to purchase private health insurance in the face of 
long wait times. Now the Court is criticizing government's attempts 
to shut down Insite because it created marked health benefits for its 
community of users "with no discernable negative impact on the public 
safety and health objectives of Canada."

Couldn't something similar be said about the Mom and Baby Depot? In 
the Insite affair, the Court has once again signalled the strength of 
an individual right to adequate health care. Our governments should 
follow the Court's leadership by getting out of innovation's way.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom