Monday 15 May 2006

Ethics Of For-Profit Private Clinics In Canadian Healthcare

Earlier this month the city of Toronto saw the opening of the Medicor Cancer Centre, a for-profit private clinic that provides cancer patients with medical services in return for a charged fee. Proponents claim that the clinic acts primarily as an advocate for cancer patients and its services rendered do not infringe the laws of the Canada Health Act. Opponents argue that the establishment of such a clinic merely creates a two-tier health care system that violates the spirit of universal healthcare in Canada. The center includes a team of medical physicians, naturopathic doctors, counselors, dieticians, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other ancillary healthcare providers. To the clinic’s credit, while many (if not all) of these services are readily available to cancer patients free of charge via other means (such as through the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation), the convenience of one-stop “shopping” and the perceived continuity of care (including 24-hour access to a physician from the center) offered by the clinic may be appealing to cancer patients who can afford such care and who do not want to be burdened by the need to arrange similar services for themselves while battling their disease. However, the autonomy of an individual to choose private over public care must be carefully balanced by the potential abuse of these alternative care pathways that may undermine the equality and rights of all Canadians to receive appropriate and timely health care. It should also be noted that the clinic does not offer essential cancer services such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. As such, the public must be made aware that the care provided by this clinic is not meant as sole substitute for traditional medical care delivered to cancer patients by public healthcare. Regardless of the ethical dilemma that is raised, this is a clear demonstration that health and wealth are inescapably intertwined.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Work • Under World
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