Monday, August 17, 2009

The Truth About Canadian Health Care

In my ongoing quest to stop the Americans from using Canada as an example of a country that has poor health care, I posted a comment on a blog the other day, and one of the commenters replied back to me, asking me the following question. "When was the last time a new lifesaving treatment was developed in Canada……?" I was happy to reply. Here, for your reading pleasure is a list of some of the new lifesaving treatments developed in Canada. The list would be three or four times as long, but I got tired...

Insulin for diabetes was discovered here in Canada by two Nobel prize winning physicians named Frederick Banting and Charles Best.

The first neurosurgery for cancer was performed in Canada.

The first diagnostic test for diagnosing cancer of the thyroid was performed in Canada.

The first surgeries on brain aneurysms were performed in Canada, saving the lives of people that would otherwise have died.

The first medical genetic screening of prenatal babies for heritary diseases was performed in Canada.

The first surgery to save the lives of “blue babies” was performed in Canada. Before that, it was an automatic death sentence.

The first artificial knee replacement was performend in Canada.

The first single lung transplant was performed in Canada.

The first aortic valve replacement in the world was performed in Canada, and the procedure is now used worldwide.

The world’s first successful liver/small bowel transplant was performed in Canada.

The drug lamivudine which is used for the treatment of Hepatitis B was discovered in Canada.

The connection between sleep apnea and fatal congestive heart failure was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of the gene that causes Lou Gehrig’s Disease was discovered in Canada.
The world’s first three-dimensional ultrasound therapy was done in Canada.

The first physical map of the human genome was created in Canada.

The first identification of a human blood cell that regenerates the entire blood system was discovered in Canada. This discovery enables the development of new treatments for blood diseases such as leukemia, thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.

Identification of a major gene that causes colon cancer was discovered in Canada.

One of the genes that causes epilepsy was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of the mechanism of formation of amyloid, the basis of Alzheimer’s and other diseases was done in Canada, and the subsequent development of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.

Canada pioneered the use of Botulinum Toxin A to reduce upper limb spasticity in children with cerebral palsy.

Incidentally, BOTOX for plastic surgery was also discovered in Canada, right here in Vancouver, by a husband and wife team, ophthalmologist Jean Carruthers and dermatologist Alastair Carruthers. Look it up. Americans can’t live without botox now. It has become a mainstay for every aging Hollywood actress and housewife of Orange County. But, yup, its cosmetic function was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of a molecular marker to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, was made here in Canada.

A major clinical trial provided the first alternative treatment to taxol for preventing breast cancer recurrence in survivors five years post diagnosis, and it was done here in Canada — by Canadians.

A Canadian study makes it easier to identify patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), providing faster diagnosis and significant savings to the health care system — and lives.

Identification of a cancer stem cell responsible for brain tumors was made in Canada. This discovery may change how this deadly condition is studied and treated in the future.

Canada performed the world’s first hospital-to-hospital telerobotic assisted surgery on a patient more than 400 kilometres away. During the procedure, they completed a Nissen Fundoplication on a 66-year old patient located at North Bay General Hospital from St. Joseph’s telerobotics suite in Hamilton, Ontario.

Canada developed the first draft DNA sequence for coronavirus implicated as cause of SARS, which is deadlier than the swine flu. From this a vaccine for SARS was created. This was done in the building in which I work, incidentally.

Canadian doctors found that the vast majority of heart attacks can be predicted by nine easily measurable factors that are the same in virtually every region and ethnic group worldwide, thereby preventing them.

Canadians discovered over 70 novel human receptor genes; many of which, together with their chemical activators, mediate unique functions in the brain and are being targeted for drug design.

Canadians researchers, in the first large, multi-centre clinical trial of its kind, provided evidence to suggest that artery grafts from the forearm should be used in place of vein grafts from the leg in heart bypass surgery because radial arteries have significantly higher graft patency over one year.

A Canadian research team discovered magnetic resonance imaging detects more breast cancer tumors, earlier, compared with mammography, ultrasound or clinical examination in women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This finding offers hope to genetically at-risk women, and gives them an alternative to removing both breasts.

Canadians were the first in the world to use beads of palladium, a low-dose radioactive material, to treat women with breast cancer on an outpatient basis. This therapy holds the promise of eliminating anguishing side effects and considerably enhancing the women’s quality of life.

Canadian doctors were the first to demonstrate an association between pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) and the Epstein-Barr virus, indicating that exposure to the virus at a certain time in childhood may be an important environmental trigger for the development of MS.

Canadians developed a virtual instrument that allows children with physical disabilities to make music (both therapeutic and recreational applications of the software – which is licensed in 7 countries around the world).

Canadians were the first in the world to research and develop and begin treating prostate cancer using a 3-D image-guided radiation therapy device that was developed in Canada. This non-surgical technique allows oncologists to visualize the exact position of the target and deliver precise external beam radiation therapy.

A Canadian study determines that a specific enzyme, known as pro-protein convertase 4 (PC4) may be responsible for fetal growth restriction, the second leading cause of infant mortality in the developed world. Knowledge may lead to screening for the defective enzyme early in the pregnancy and provide the ability to monitor the pregnancy more closely.

Canadian scientists discovered that early surgical removal of the spleen combined with antiangiogenic therapy, which arrests the growth of tumour-feeding blood vessels, may stop the progression of leukemia.

Canadians discovered the precise molecular chain of events that initiates the wide-scale immune destruction of “super bug” infections such as flesh-eating disease, toxic shock syndrome and severe food poisoning.

Canadians were the first to implant an antibody-coated stent into the first human patient. The invention of the antibody-coated stent reduces restenosis and prevents blood clots from occurring.

Canadians live longer, they receive better health care than most Americans, there is no such thing here as a “pre-existing condition” which prevents them from getting medical care. And, Americans would be surprised to learn just how much of their medications and medical procedures are discovered in places like Germany, France (yes) even Great Britain.

I could go on, but I’m getting tired. Canada is not a medical backwater, and Americans need to come here and see the truth for themselves. All the horror stories about Canadians going to other countries for medical care is false. I work in the medical system, and I know. It is false. It’s fear mongering. In fact, it’s embarrassing it’s so untrue.

We are not saying our system is perfect. Far from it, but it's better than many others. However, we would really appreciate it if Americans would stop telling lies about our system in order to further their arguments in their debate about their own health care system. We really don't care what system you choose, but please -- stop trashing ours.


Kathryn said...

I'm so glad that you are happy with your care there, & i hope it continues.

Not dissing Canadian care, it would not/will not work in the US. Drug prices would NOT drop as the drug cartel has a monopoly & has already prevented the gov't from negotiating prices here.

It will be the purpose of all medical entities to try to get the gov't to agree to similar price fixing. Also, the plan as it currently stands would do very bad things to the promise of choice. There are very good alternative care practices available, but a gov't plan will try to eliminate them & tax those of us who prefer someone who can see beyond drugs & surgery.

Bottom line is i don't trust my gov't for much these days. With the mess they have created trying to take care of us stupid peons they have proven that they don't live in the real world. I don't want them involved in my health care.

However, i would consider the plan if the president, senators, & representatives had to utilize it too. Currently they have a number of things that are not available to the public. Yes, our elite, the new aristocracy.

Land of shimp said...

I'm a big fan of Canada, Jo. I think you, and all Canadians are more than entitled to pride in both your health care system, and your country. It's entirely justified.

I did have a question:

Incidentally, BOTOX for plastic surgery was also discovered in Canada, right here in Vancouver, by a husband and wife team, ophthalmologist Jean Carruthers and dermatologist Alastair Carruthers. Look it up. Americans can’t live without botox now.

Botox was originally used for the treatment of Bells Palsy. It was later discovered to have cosmetic uses, but it was developed for a medical need.

Was it developed in Canada, or were its cosmetic applications discovered in Canada?

Not that it matters, it's an advance either way. My understanding was that Botox was developed in Canada, for treatment of Bells Palsy.

Land of shimp said...

I should probably add that I am aware that the cosmetic benefits were discovered in Canada.

But I thought it was developed in Canada, before that, as a legitimate treatment for a medical condition.

Land of shimp said...

Sorry to monopolize the comment area! I posted before I read the other comment.

Also, the plan as it currently stands would do very bad things to the promise of choice. There are very good alternative care practices available, but a gov't plan will try to eliminate them & tax those of us who prefer someone who can see beyond drugs & surgery.

Kathryn, I'm interested to know what makes you believe this? No one has seen the detailed plan, it's all supposition at this point.

Also, as of today it looks like Obama is willing to drop the government health care plan. Remarks he made in Colorado yesterday referred to it as a "sliver" of the overall reform.

It looks very much like Obama is willing to back down on it. In other words, it doesn't look like the reform plan (which again, we haven't seen) will contain a public option.

Jennifer D said...

Go Jo!

and Go Canada!

SparkleFarkle said...

A very impressive list indeed. I hope that commenter comes back hungry-- he/she's got a lot of crow to eat!

Alissa said...

What I keep hearing, even from intelligent people, is that a single payer system will not work here in the states. No one has managed to explain why to me. The only explanation that I have been able to come up with is that it would hurt the insurance industry, which even now with the economy in a tailspin is doing pretty good.

I don't see why we have to reinvent the wheel. Other countries (like Canada) have figured out a solution to the health care problem, but apparently that is not good enough for us. I am frustrated and annoyed.

It's all politics, and more and more I am beginning to think that this country is an oligarchy. It's the only explanation that makes any sense.

Jo said...

Kathryn, my point in my blogs is that Canada and America are apples and oranges. I don't understand why Americans feel it is necessary to trash our system, when it is THEIRS they are trying to fix. It makes me really angry. I don't know much about the American system, and as a Canadian, I certainly would not tell Americans what to do with their system. It boggles my mind when I read some of the stuff... Arrggghhh...

Alane, the history of Botox is that it was first used for people with so-called "lazy eye" or "cross-eyes" -- here in Canada. The ophthalmologist who used it was married to a dermatologist. They discovered that it also helped "wrinkles". So they began using it costmetically. It was used for Bell's palsy later -- also in Canada. All of these applications were first used in Canada.

Jennifer, thank you! :-)

SparkleFarkle, well, so far I have not had a response ... so ... *heh*

Alissa, the United States is a huge country, with a huge population. It is very possible that health care systems that work in smaller countries such as ours would not work for you. But I am so tired of hearing Americans trash our system. We're your neighbors and your good friends. We're not perfect, but what works for us might not work for the U.S.


Yes, I think it's BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT PROFIT AND POLITICS in America, is why we won't see REAL REFORM AND CHANGE in the health-care industry.

Also, yes Botox was for Bells-Palsy; my brother enjoyed the benefits of this, when he was struck with this disease years and years ago. Part of his initial treatment, was done by a doctor who was initially born in Canada; he had a dual citizenship, and of course since our family originates in Michigan, we have many Canadians who not only visit our state, but who often live and/or work in our country.

From what I'm hearing they'll end up removing the public option and go for a co-op plan, that won't be any better than the HMO system they've got right now.

I keep being told that because Cananda is a SMALLER country, that's why they're able to have the health program they do.

I frankly don't believe this one minute. I think one of our problems is we created a night-mare for ourselves by not taking steps to assure all Americans, that they'd not have to compete with the millions of immigrants who come in; who are ILLEGAL, and who are afforded welfare; heath-care, and other benefits, that drain our system (and of course, they don't pay taxes into the system).

I have no idea how many people come to America as LEGAL IMMIGRANTS; it's possible that we've gained in population because we might be quiet lenient on immigration policy, and of course if one doesn't think of the impact and effect new immigrants have on the overall economy, then they've done a terrible job by not factoring ALL CAUSES that create certain high costs and economic difficulties for a nation.

I also read that our WASTE in the MEDICAL CARE INDUSTRY is a staggering $500,000,000,000/year as well as another $250,000,000,000/year is LOST IN FRAUD AND HEAVY REDUNDANT PAPERWORK that's required by the various city; state, and federal laws that REALLY are MOST IRRITATING.

We also stand in lines. We also have to fill out forms - over and over again; even though we PRESENT OUR MEDICARE CARD (and in our case, OUR INSURANCE CARD), all our doctors require us to FILL OUT ADDITIONAL PAPERWORK, that we filled out initially.

This past Friday when I went to my doctor, I asked him why I'd gone through that hassle again - that he must get tired of throwing out all those previous forms as he updates them over and over.

My doctor said they can't throw out those forms (by law), and he has a FILING NIGHTMARE - and actually has to pay for STORAGE OFF PREMISES, in order to adhere to the STATE LAWS.

So, when one thinks about how a lot could be done if we got rid of the WASTE AND REDUNDANCY that has NOTHING TO DO WITH ACTUAL TREATMENT, but is all wrapped up in paperwork and nonsense, we certainly would find our costs not soaring.

Most recently the Wall Street Journal said that in 10 years, the average family will be paying $22,000/year for medical insurance. That's outrageous; that's insane, and a person might as well put that money into a savings account and take their chances.

For me, because I'm not one who is a big advocate of 'drugs/pills/treating the ailment with synthetic compounds, I went 22 years before I took out my insurance at age 58. I 'gambled' in a sense; I put my money in CD's and investments, and when I needed the money for medical treatment, I used it from that fund. Fortunately for me, I had quite a nice savings account when I took out my insurance, so I pretty much was able to remain free from the standard concept that one MUST have MEDICAL INSURANCE.

I must agree, that MEDICARE and my CURRENT SECONDY INSURER, have been WONDERFUL to me; I have no complaints. However, I do think we need to FOCUS ON HEALTH-CARE WELLNESS as part and parcel of any 'reform' in the USA.


Hey, sorry about that typo' - it should have read QUITE, not QUIET.

Also, maybe I should be QUIET, but I finished reading the LA Times, and they're now confirming that Obama will probably back down from the public option and install co-ops instead.

What's wrong with this is simple. The co-ops will cater to the under-insured and uninsured; the money will still go to the big pharmaceutical industry as they provide the drugs/medications/treatments, etc., and then on top of that, they'll complain they can't manage co-ops WITHOUT GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY, and of course that will RAISE OUR TAXES, so we'll end up SUBSIDISING BOTH BIG PHARMA'; and still faced with inconsistent quality-care for those at the lower-income level.

Frankly, I seriously doubt if the public option was ever REALLY 'on the table', but a RUSE, to get everyone either riled up; worried, or those who thought it was viable and fair, happy to learn that we might finally establish a decent system for those who have no insurance. So, to me, it was a POLITICAL RUSE - thanks to our MSM and their allowance of demonstrations and complaints AGAINST public option to be plastered all over our televisions for the last 2 or 3 weeks, they've been able to make it appear that our citizens were against the public option, so they can bury it.

Sadly, time was never given to the millions who were for the public option.

So, I don't fool myself; we don't live in a democracy - hopefully Canada will never have to deal with such artifice and manipulation in their country!!

Land of shimp said...

As of fifty minutes ago, Happy in Nevada, Obama has refuted that and says the public health care option is not something he plans on abandoning.

Jo, on the subject of why Americans feel the need to drag Canada into this, there are reasons (being under informed, falling for soundbites) but there isn't any excuse. It's shameful.

Boy, this is a tiring round we're going through in the US political sphere, isn't it? No matter what side of the debate we fall upon. I support a public health care option, I am willing to be taxed appropriately also.

I wish I could buy all of us a drink though. I think we're all starting to feel a little battle worn, and that includes Canada. The country that through absolutely no choice of their own, ended up in our health care war.

Yup, a nice drink, some snacks. Naptime. That's what we need, on a pretty much a national level.

Sarah Berthume said...

I read an article that the Obama administration is giving up on the government run free healthcare for everyone idea. Too much backlash. I wish they had a little more tenacity and understanding, it's a shame the condition our healthcare system is in now. They need YOU on their team, Jo!

Land of shimp said...

Sarah, CNN reported:

He isn't giving up. It might be a case of "at least not yet" but the Whitehouse people spoke out of turn, Obama still intends to pursue the public health care option as of this hour.

Jo, I meant to say thank you for the Botox information in my earlier post. I'm sorry, I'm a little distracted today, it's been kind of a big news day here on this very subject. Thank you for the explanation. I appreciate it.

Avril Fleur said...

Yeah! So THERE! :)
Great post as usual Jo! Keep on defending us, like a good Canadian girl! The truth needs to be told!

Deb said...

Can't you send a copy of this post to CNN?
I, for one, am not trashing the Canadian health care system.

Avril Fleur said...

The US really needs someone to fight for them as hard as Tommy Douglas did for us in the early 60's. There's no wonder why he was voted the greatest Canadian of All Time.

Lunachance said...

I used to work for a health insurance broker in Washington State. One thing I will have to say is: it was very hard (almost impossible) to find doctors within 75 miles of the Canadian border who were contracted with our insurance companies. This meant, the doctors in Bellingham (for example) would not accept payment from the insurance company for services rendered, making treatment fall into the "out of network" category, and therefore, emptying the pockets of the patient, as the coverage was lower (60% versus 80%) and the out of pocket expenses would be higher ($5,000 versus $3,000). The reason the doctors would not be contracted is because the Canadian patients would come across the border and pay 100% cash. No system is perfect. Part of the reason the Canadian costs are lower is the dramatic malpractice lawsuits filed in America. I wish there was an easy answer, but that is not the case. Insurance companies make profits, the pharmaceutical companies are also driven by the bottom line and the share holders. Oh for an easy solution to a very broken system.

Judi said...

I would be thrilled if the US could duplicate a Canadian or French health care system. I view it as out moral obligation. In this country, we allow people to work full-time and still live in poverty.

I'm amazed at what comes out of the mouths of some of my fellow countrymen/women. I hate to say consider the source....but consider the source. Follow the money and you find the people stirring the pot of misinformation.

robert said...

Sitting here in 'old Europe' this discussion is surely of interest to follow.
Thank you also for providing those interesting facts about Canada.

SweetPeaSurry said...

Oh goodness honey, you know I love you to pieces, and as SOON as I get a passport, I'm heading to Canada. But may I just say ... 'Guinea Pigs'?


brightest blessings!

The Bug said...

I think what frustrates me the most about all of this is that we in the US seem to think we're the end all & be all - Individually & corporately. Most people seem to think: how will this affect me? And if it's perceived as the slightest bit negative we stop listening. Never mind all the folks for whom the idea is a Godsend. Apparently God only ever sends to me & mine. Sigh.

Land of shimp said...

Take heart, The Bug, I know a lot of people who really want to see a public health care system put into place, and are also in the tax bracket that will get hit the hardest.

You know, I think sometimes we confuse being highly vocal, with being highly numbered. The people shouting the loudest defining the group.

However, recent polls indicate that support for a public health option run between 65-70 percent (the last poll I saw was 71%), so all hope is not lost.

We may not get a solution right out of the gate, but hopefully we are moving towards a solution. It's unconscionable that so many middle-class people find themselves without any health care options, and so they go without preventative care.

In the long run, it's incredibly costly also, because people end up going to the doctor only when things have reached a desperate pass.

By the way, The Bug, you've mentioned you recently had shoulder surgery. I hope you're healing well!

Mean Mama said...

I greatly admire the Canadian healthcare system and so does my husband and every other person I speak to. People who are trashing Canada's healthcare system are just plain ignorant or stupid.

I am extremely disgusted with my countrymen on this subject and completely embarrassed.

Rebecca said...

Wow, Jo - I'm more proud than ever to be Canadian after reading this post. I just got caught up on my reading, and wanted to say how much I loved your Canajun post. Hilarious! You should be writing for the Air Farce!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

My Goodness! I am as patriotic to Canada as any non-Canadian can be but even I got a little tired reading this's just too long. I'll wait till the movie comes out. Congrats Canada.

the walking man said...

Jo...really, seriously, relax. You're allowing your piece of mind to be vandalized by stupid arguments that will not alter or change or affect anything about the fine Canadian health care system.

Don't allow yourself to whipped into a frenzy the same way the insurance industry is whipping the American sheep into one.

It isn't worth your time and trouble.

PhilipH said...

Hi Jo,

Apart from that long list of Canadian discoveries and achievements, whatever has Canada produced?



Alissa said...

Well, I think Canada can be proud of your health care system and all those wonderful accomplishments, there's also this: Canada is really big. Sorry, saw this cute video, and thought of you

Russell said...

Well, uh, yea, sure, okay. Great. But, hey, what ELSE has Canadian medicine done besides, you know, those things?! Heh!!

Seriously, I have to laugh when I hear people in the states crying about how awful it will be if the government gets directly involved with health care.

Have all those people forgotten how American insurance companies treat people?!?! Talk about rationing out care!

Do you realize that insurance companies and pharmaceutial companies are rich, rich, rich and more rich?!! Gee... I wonder how they got that way?

Way to tell 'em, Jo! Now if only a few people would actually listen...

Barry said...

As a beneficiary of Canada's Health care system, I'm am also amazed and dismayed to see the way it is portrayed in the States. The US is involved in making an historic decision about their health care system and to think their choice will be influenced by such a distorted and false view of our system is discouraging.

It is amazing the media in the US does so little to correct this blatantly false portrayal.

Pauline said...

I like your spirited defense of your country's good points. We have some too, like the "free speech" right we like to abuse. Nothing is free when it is used irresponsibly to prove the other guy wrong at all costs.

Interested parties should read How Insurance Firms Drive Debate by a former CIGNA employee (found at I'm surprised it was printed.

Re Canada's health care he states: "What I'm trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by "government bureaucrats," someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.

The industry has been engaging in these kinds of tactics for many years, going back to its successful behind-the-scenes campaign to kill the Clinton reform plan."

NYT op-ed columnist Frank Rich also writes some interesting things about why Americans are so disillusioned by and frightened of their government:(

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Oh, Jo, you seem to have hit a nerve again. Like you, I love a good debate and you could not have picked a better topic. Trouble is, this land I live in, the great USA, is a gullible lot. So few of the people here are really aware that most of what they hear is no more than the propaganda of the drug and insurance industry. We are governed by those that cater to lobbyists representing the very industries who generate the propaganda. Bashing Canada is just collateral damage to them. Matters little to them. I really wonder how many Americans are following this with any sense of the real issues. The ones represented here are but a few and I am sad to say that most of our population in this country will blindly follow whatever they hear on TV without ever investigating facts on their own. I give to you my personal apology on behalf of my country for bashing your country!

Jo said...

Thank you, everyone, for your fabulous comments. And thank you for your apologies for your countrymen basing Canada. I don't blame any of you folks. Goodness! And thank you, as well, for your comments about the insurance companies.

I am going to check on all the links that you sent me.

Incidentally, Barry is going through a medical process here in Canada at the moment, and you might want to click on his blog to see -- first hand -- what excellent care he is receiving.

I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am proud of our health care system. As I have said -- oh -- about a million times, it is not perfect. But it is ours and it works for us. I do sincerely hope that Americans get a health care system in place that works for them as well.

Paula Slade said...

The list is most certainly impressive. I said it once before and I'll say it again - we should be so lucky to have a health care system that provides research and care as fine as your government does!