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16
Opinion
I
’m often asked what are the most memorable and difficult
interviews to conduct. It’s not the politicians and the ce-
lebrities and, frankly, they seldom have much to say that is
important. For me, it’s those who are in pain, have lost some-
one, have been touched by tragedy. The mother of a murdered
child, the husband of a terror victim, a teenager with cancer.
Liam Reid’s mother was a tough one. Not because Kristina Reid
is unpleasant – on the contrary, she’s delightful – but because
her little boy will go completely blind unless he receives eye
surgery inMichigan, and the Ontario government is refusing to
pay the $45,000 necessary for the procedure.
The hypocrisy is astounding. In Canada, we are not allowed to
buy private medical insurance, but are forced to pay high taxes
and then often deniedmedical helpwhenwe need it most. Not
that our doctors and nurses and hospitals are inferior, because
we are generally very fortunate. Yet not always. And in this case,
there is no facility or surgeon who can help little Liam and pre-
vent the retinal condition called advanced bilateral persistent
fetal vasculature syndrome, or Norrie disease; to be blunt, no-
body and nothing in Canada can prevent the little fellow from
spending the rest of his life blind.
“Another boy in Ontario has had 49 treatments paid for by the
government,”explains Kristina. “It’s incredibly rare, but one boy
has had the treatment, the other not. And it’s not really that ex-
pensive, when you consider the waste of money that goes on
and the funding of things that seem so unnecessary.”
She has a point, of course. All of us have stories of government
irresponsibility when it comes to spending, and few things
can be more important than saving a little boy’s eyesight. In
Alberta, for example, the government has just decided to re-
fund transgender surgery. In other words, if aman believes that
he is a woman, the public will pay for operations to remove his
genitalia. This will cost between $18,000 and $50,000.
I’m not going to pretend that I approve of such surgery, nor
would I prevent someone from undergoing such a procedure.
What I do reject is the idea that the healthy vision of a child is
less significant than the blurred vision of someone who wants
to change his or her gender. We also fund the elective surgery
of abortion in most of Canada, we give money to extremist
groups, to perverse art galleries, to all sorts of people who do
not need, but certainly want the hard-earned tax dollars of the
Canadian people.
The man who can save Liam’s vision and change his life is Dr.
Michael Trese, who works at William Beaumont Hospital in
Royal Oak, Michigan. This is not an experimental or unreli-
able procedure; it has proven to be effective and successful.
Ontario’s Health Minister Deb Matthews has been less than
helpful, however, and very few people would consider her a
particularly competent or reliable minister; frankly, it is a won-
der that she was ever given such a vital portfolio, and why she’s
still in charge of the department. The “expert” doctor on the
board that considers these out-of-country expenses that are
sometimes financed by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan has
repeatedly refused the Reids’ request. “But he’s not qualified in
this field,”argues Kristina Reid. “He’s a cataract surgeon, and this
is radically different. He’s judging something he doesn‘t fully
understand.”
The surgeons at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who
triedunsuccessfully to treat Liam’s right eye in 2009 support the
idea of further surgery in Michigan, so those closest to the little
boy and his medical condition – and to his well-being – know
what is best. Whether the Ontario government will change its
policy remains to be seen and as I write, there are signs, just
signs, of politicians perhaps coming to their senses.
Liam is, tragically, not alone. There are numerous cases inwhich
Canadians are denied the right to seek surgery, often life-sav-
ing surgery, because of government fiat. The solution seems
simple. Allow Canadians to use their own money for their own
health; look at the French or German system of two-tier health
care; grow up and stop living in the 1930s, and the false para-
dise of Tommy Douglas medicine. We need to open the debate
and, most important of all right now, we need to make
sure that Liam is able to see his mum and dad.
Michael Coren
on the set of his
nightly television show.
with
Michael Coren