Articles Concerning: Shona Holmes

Thoughts:

- Any form of Brain cancer is terrible and having a doctor tell you that you have any kind of cancer would be a harrowing experience.

- Mrs. Holmes does misrepresent her situation. By adding to the hyperbole she is not only insulting other cancer sufferers (who she should be able to empathize with) and it detracts from the debate.

- In other interviews with Fox News, Mrs. Holmes uses phrases like “socialized medicine” which are watchwords of the far-right. If she really sincerely cared about those not getting health care she would be campaigning in Canada. Where is her plea for more doctors in rural areas? I haven’t seen her commercial on the CBC attacking our system. Her campaign in the United States is supposedly about education, why is she not educating Canadians? Mrs. Holmes is attacking the Canadian system in the courts but has done nothing to court public opinion and get Canadians to agree with her position.

- Mrs. Holmes is like every other Conservative in America and the Reform/Tories in Canada. She has no plan or ideas to make health care work better but she does advocate tearing down the current system.
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Lying about health care — indeed, fear-mongering about health care — has ramped up as insurance companies attempt to keep their profits. Those profits are created by a system where the U.S. spends 5 percent more of its economy on health care in exchange for the worst results of any Western nation. To insurance company executives, their profits, their executive salaries, and their bonuses, are not just worth lying for, but also worth killing for — or at least letting people die.

The Shona Holmes Health Care Hitjob

Case in point: Shona Holmes is the current poster girl for the liars slandering Canadian health care in an attempt to discredit reform. Ms. Holmes alleges she was horribly endangered by Canada’s healthcare system:

Both CNN and McConnell made a big deal out of Shona Holmes, an Ontario woman who claims she was forced by Ontario’s health system to go to the United States for life-saving surgery for a brain tumour. She claims that in 2005 delays in access to treatment at home made it necessary to go to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and pay $97,000 for her care.

Her story sounds bad, doesn’t it? Except, of course, it’s a lie:

On the Mayo Clinic’s website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it’s somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes’ “brain tumour” was actually a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, “Rathke’s Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts.”
There’s no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it’s a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.

In other words, her condition was not immediately life threatening, and it was prioritized accordingly. But Holmes didn’t want to wait behind people who needed care more than she did, so she went the U.S. where she could pay out of pocket to jump to the head of the line.

Health Care Triage: U.S. Vs. Canada

Here’s the deal: both the U.S. and Canada prioritize patients, and both engage in health care rationing. In Canada health care is prioritized by how urgently a patient requires treatment. In America, to a much greater extent, access to medical care is prioritized by how much money the patient has. Someone in the U.S. who was sicker than Ms. Holmes was forced to wait longer for treatment because Holmes was rich enough to pay $97,000.

A Personal Perspective on Canadian Health Care

I should add that I have firsthand experience with how the Canadian system prioritizes treatment. In 1993, at the age of 25, I became very ill with ulcerative colitis. I was hospitalized, and put on very expensive drugs. About a week after being hospitalized, the nurse watching me called in my doctors on a Sunday because I was deteriorating so fast — pain killers were no longer having any effect (i.e., high doses of morphine were not working), I wouldn’t let anyone touch me, and I was becoming delirious. At about midnight, they wheeled me into the operating chamber and took out my large intestine. While they were digging around, they found out I had appendicitis, and they took that out too. It would have burst within 2 days, and in my weakened state, it would have killed me.

Unfortunately, one of the treatments for ulcerative colitis involves immune suppressing drugs. My immune system basically shut down, my liver almost shut down, and I spent almost another 3 months in the hospital, riddled with extremely painful and crippling infections and other problems. At one point I was on 9 drugs; one of them was an antibiotic so expensive that only a single doctor in the hospital could approve it. My gastroenterologist called the treatment the equivalent of “pouring gold dust into your veins.” I wasted away, my weight dropping below 90 lbs. I often joke that I was old young: I’ve used a walker, crutches and cane.

The Universal Health Care Bottom Line

The ultimate point of my story is simple: I got the care I needed, when I needed it, and I never paid a single red cent.

Which is good, because I couldn’t have afforded to pay. I was young and had very little money. The kind of care I received, even back then, would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the U.S.

If I had lived in the U.S., my parents would have faced a choice between paying for my incredibly expensive treatment or watching me die. They were both old and it would have wiped out their savings entirely and thrown them into bankruptcy. Frankly, I don’t know how they could have supported themselves. My life, at that cost, would have had too high a price. I wonder how many Americans have had to make that calculation.

But I survived, and neither I, nor my parents, was bankrupted. In similar circumstances I doubt all of those things would be true for an American 25-year-old trying to survive the same medical condition in America’s health care industry.

Health Care Rationing, American-style

I have had two American friends die in the last 5 years who would have survived if they had had fully covered health care. (Note I didn’t say health insurance, that’s not what people need. They need health care.)

One of them died of the flu. He didn’t seek treatment because of the cost of his insurance co-payment, and he was found dead.

Another had a heart condition, but didn’t know it, because she didn’t have health care, because she couldn’t afford it. If she’d had health care, she would probably still be alive.

Both of those people are dead because of people like Holmes, and the people behind her. My two friends are dead because insurance company executives want to keep their obscene salaries, and force Americans to pay more for health care than they should.

So What’s the Health Care Reform Fight Really About?

Billions of dollars are at stake in the battle for American health care reform. That’s the sort of money executives, and their lobbyists, and their bought-and-paid-for politicians are willing to kill for: to let you, or your friends, or your family suffer and die. Think of your dead friends and relatives as collateral damage in the fight for health industry profits; that’s how the insurance executives see them.

I’m a secret CNN fan. I just can’t get enough of those talking heads with their gleaming teeth, wet-look lipstick and perfect coiffures. Even at 4 a.m., some gorgeous thing with flawless makeup (men and women) will be gushing about important affairs of state like Michael Jackson or that philandering governor from South Carolina.

Every once in a while, CNN will notice there’s a country north of the 49th parallel that has some weird little customs, like parliamentary democracy or gun control. They then venture forth to do in-depth analysis of our quaint habits for the benefit of the enlightened viewers of, let’s say, Kentucky.

Kentucky is to blame for the latest CNN investigation of Canada — a “Reality Check” on Canada’s health care. It seems the state — known for fried chicken and racehorses — is also home to Senator Mitch McConnell, a high-ranking Republican of impeccable conservative credentials. Senator McConnell does not like President Barack Obama’s plan to reform health care, and he’s decided to use Canada as a weapon to help him fight the battle.

As CNN reported, McConnell recently made a speech to the Senate referring to the “bureaucrats who run Canada’s health care system” and using the Kingston General Hospital as an example of the horror of Canada’s health care. KGH supposedly had waits of 340 days for knee replacement and 196 days for hip replacement. McConnell also fussed that Ontario’s wait time for breast cancer surgery is three months. CNN did interview Dr. David Zelt, KGH’s chief of staff, who pointed out the wait times are actually 91 days for hip replacement, 109 days for knees, and that these aren’t the average wait times, but the time that nine out of 10 people have had the procedure. Many have them done much faster. For breast cancer surgery, the wait time at KGH is 23 days, across Ontario it’s 34 days.

Both CNN and McConnell made a big deal out of Shona Holmes, an Ontario woman who claims she was forced by Ontario’s health system to go to the United States for life-saving surgery for a brain tumour. She claims that in 2005 delays in access to treatment at home made it necessary to go to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and pay $97,000 for her care.

In 2007, Holmes was part of a court case brought by the Canadian Constitution Foundation against the government of Ontario. The case challenges Ontario’s “government-run monopolistic” health system that prohibits the sale of private health care and private health insurance for essential health services. It is still before the courts.

Holmes has become the darling of conservatives and the stop-public-health-care movement in the United States. She’s testified before Congress, been on Fox TV as well as CNN, and her story is retold on hundreds of right wing blogs. She’s now doing a nasty TV ad for Patients United Now, a Republican-led group opposed to Obama’s reforms. You can see the ad at http://www.patientsunitednow.com. The group is spending almost $2 million on it to target politicians in Washington.

For a person living with cancer, the idea that someone’s care could be unreasonably delayed is truly scary. It also doesn’t reflect the experience I’ve had or the experiences that have been shared with me by so many other patients. Even CNN interviewed Doug Wright, a more typical patient in Toronto who is receiving very speedy treatment for his cancer.

Still, I found Holmes tale both compelling and troubling. So I decided to check a little further. On the Mayo Clinic’s website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it’s somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes’ “brain tumour” was actually a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, “Rathke’s Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts.”

There’s no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it’s a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.

In Senator McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, one out of three people under age 65 do not have any health insurance. They don’t have to worry about wait times for hip or knee replacement or cancer surgery — they can’t get care. The media household income in Kentucky is $37,186 — not quite enough for the $97,000 bill at the Mayo Clinic. CNN didn’t mention that in its “Reality Check.”

As the debate on health care reform heats up the United States, it seems certain that Canada’s public health care system will be used, or more accurately misused, in the battle for hearts and minds. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours.
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Other articles:

http://www.dailykos.com/tag/Shona%20Holmes

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/668284

http://acreativerevolution.ca/node/1944

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