Editorial

Doctor seeks to knock out universal health care with the Muhammad Ali touch

Civil rights trailblazer Brian Day is fighting for doctors’ right to profit from their patients
H. Michael Karshis / Raj Taneja

When legendary boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali died this year, little did we suspect that a constitutional crusader in our midst would honour his legacy so fittingly.

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Brian Day knows injustice. He knows it as a doctor and a CEO. He likes to open private clinics and then charge patients for medical services they need. Never mind that Canadians are not supposed to have to pay for such things — a little piece of legislation called the Canada Health Act isn’t going to stand in Day’s way. And he’s headed to the B.C. Supreme Court to prove it.

“I listened to Ali beat Sonny Liston,” Day told the National Post. Likening himself to the people’s champ, he explained that he follows in a long line of activists who fought for same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and safe-injection sites.

“Someone had to stand there and argue and fight for those laws to be overturned. And this (Canada Health Act) is a law that is literally killing Canadians.”

The Fight of the Century

By bravely challenging the basis of medicare, Day has taken up the struggle faced by medical practitioners everywhere: how to squeeze the most money out of patients.

In Canada, extorting patients is hard. That atrocious Canada Health Act says something about providing care based on need, not ability to pay. But ability to pay is how we should define need.

Where there are dollar signs, there will be doctors.

The client with the largest disposable income, not the patient with the greatest medical need, should get care first. Stop forcing physicians to tend to people who medically need it. Let the doctors diagnose who has the fullest wallet and the cleanest credit and the right family connections. Now is the time to release MDs from their chains — and their ethical responsibility to promote equitable access to health care resources. (What does the Canadian Medical Association know anyway?)

“We in Canada will give the same level of services to a wealthy person as to a person who isn’t wealthy,” said Day. “And that doesn’t make sense.”

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Thrilla for the Billas

The Charter guarantees the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

So let’s keep people alive. Let’s keep them free. Let’s keep them safe. The way to do so, according to Day’s lawyers from the venerable Canadian Constitution Foundation, isn’t to pick up on the many ideas for decreasing wait times in the public system.

Instead, people with beefed-up bank accounts should be able to cut the line for health care services. It’ll make for shorter lines, because there will be more lines, marked with clear signage pointing to the public and private systems. “This way for low-income patients” will read the sign for single mothers, people on disability support, working-class families, Indigenous folks, and patients already bankrupt from paying for medical attention. On the other side, this will suffice: “Got $$$?”

Privatization will give them the kick they need to find their bootstraps.

Oh, and let’s also allow doctors to shift between the public and private systems to make sure their paycheques are padded. Where there are dollar signs, there will be doctors.

(Don’t doubt the logic. The legal sharks representing Day have a knack for sniffing out the real issue, whether it’s silly limits on payday loan predation, the woeful underpolicing of Black people, or the law’s preferential treatment of lesbians over Christians.)

As Ali once said, most of the world’s people “live in poverty without hope, opportunities or choices in life.” To be able to afford health care or not — this is the choice they deserve.

Rumble in the Racist Jungle

Racism mattered to Ali. And racism matters in health care.

Discrimination against racialized and Indigenous patients fosters health disparities across our country and sometimes leads to death.

Poverty hurts Indigenous people in particular, and it’s understandable if you think the wide income gap between them and other groups in our country means privatized health care will leave them behind.

But fret not. Privatization will give them the kick they need to find their bootstraps. Want health care? Make money. Want a physician to check for diabetes instead of assuming you’re drunk? Hand over dollar bills, preferably the red or brown ones. Just throw yourself into the capitalist economy, and you’ll soon get past all that labour discrimination and be able to fork out the cash to be treated right.

Like Ali, and like the founding father of oppressive medicare, Tommy Douglas, Day used to be a boxer too.

“If you’re competitive and you think you’re right, you want to keep going until there’s a final outcome,” said Day.

That’s why he won’t stop until universal health care is down for the count.

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