Justice Centre takes government health care monopoly to court

CALGARY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms will be before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary on October 17, 2013, on behalf of Alberta dentist Darcy Allen who has  launched a constitutional challenge to the Alberta Government’s health care monopoly.

Darcy Allen  seeks to extend to Alberta the 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Chaoulli v. Quebec, which held that access to a waiting list is not access to health care. This is the first time that a Court outside of Quebec will hear an application to extend the Chaoulli decision to another province.

Case Background

Eight years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Chaoulli v. Quebec that Quebec’s ban on private health insurance violates the right to “life, liberty and security of the person” set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Declaring that “access to a waiting list is not access to health care,” a majority of the Court held that the ban on private health insurance – which causes Canadians to suffer and die on waiting lists – is neither necessary nor justified.

Dr. Darcy Allen was forced to stop practising dentistry in 2009, due to debilitating and continuous back pain. Unable to work, unable to enjoy life and unwilling to face another 18 months of pain, Dr. Allen paid $77,503 out of pocket for back surgery in Montana in December, 2009.

Thousands of Canadians suffer in pain while waiting for surgery or diagnosis. Some die. The Chaoulli judgment explained how this suffering is caused by the government’s “virtual monopoly” over health care. The Charter-protected right to life and security of the person is violated by laws that force people to suffer on government waiting lists.

Extending the Chaoulli judgment to Alberta would push Canada in the direction of adopting the successful health care policies of European and Asian countries, none of which ban private health insurance.

Darcy Allen

Dr. Darcy Allen was forced to stop practising dentistry due to debilitating back pain.

What began in 2007 as a seemingly minor hockey injury gradually turned his life into a nightmare of around-the-clock pain. Normal tasks, like shovelling snow or tying shoelaces, became impossible. On one occasion, Dr. Allen watched helplessly as his one-year-old daughter, while crawling on a bed, lost her balance and fell off, and he could not move to catch her. All he could do was lie on his back in a futile attempt to ease the pain.

Dr. Allen suffered moderate but increasing pain for eight months (January to September 2008), then severe pain for eight months (October 2008 to May 2009) before obtaining a doctor’s formal recommendations for surgery.

He finally received a referral for surgery in May of 2009, but no surgery could be performed until September of 2010. His surgery date was later pushed back to June, 2011.

Unable to work, unable to enjoy life, rejecting his state of forced unemployment and unwilling to face another 18 months of severe and continuous pain, Dr. Allen paid $77,503 out of pocket for back surgery in Montana in December, 2009. The surgery significantly reduced his pain, and started his slow journey back to good health.

Had Dr. Allen not paid for his own surgery in December of 2009, the total time he would have needed to wait in a state of severe and continuous pain before receiving surgery would have been almost three years.