Monday, December 25, 2006

'Tis the season?

Every so often I run into some bad luck. And this year it's just in time for Christmas! A few weeks ago I was a victim of a drive-by egging! It was about 1 AM and the culprits were speeding past me as I was standing to cross the road. The window opened, some punk stuck his upper body out the window & winged an egg at me. At first, I didn't know what hit me, or my book bag to be precise. I saw nothing on the ground, but I looked more closely on my bag I noticed the yolk. They sped away before I could see the licence plate. I then mention this incident to several other people and I find that's not that rare to be egged by cowardly cretins in speeding cars! I even heard of an incident in which a local woman was paint-balled in the face!! She was quite bruised up, but fortunately the scum didn't hit her in the eye.

But as fate would have it, I was to be victimized again, except more discreetly this time. I believe it all started at a Blockbuster. My credit card was copied and within 2 days the criminals racked up about $5,000 worth of purchases!! I guess they had a Merry Christmas. Fortunately, the credit card company is eating the costs and the next step is for me to sign an affidavit and speak with a fraud investigator from the company. The fraud could have only been committed at one of 3 places and I can pretty much rule out the other 2. Apparently, the retailer(i.e., some young punk; probably the same one who egged me) working there had a credit card copier attached to the charge machine; or that's my best guess in any case.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wait-lists: A symptom of Canada's medical system

Here is an interesting video report on an Ontarian who went to the US, through the medical services broker, Timely Medical Alternatives, to get an MRI and receive surgery because it took too long to receive these services in Canada. As of 2006, Timely Medical Services was suing the government of Ontario on the patient's behalf for the costs incurred ($28,000).

A Short Course in Brain Surgery

Here's some background on the issue:

Lawsuit to challenge Ontario health policy

Toronto, Ontario, November 14, 2006 --– Timely Medical Alternatives Inc., a leading Canadian medical broker, today announced that it intends to launch a lawsuit against the Ontario Provincial government on behalf of a 66-year-old Newmarket resident, Lindsay McCreith.

Seeking damages as well as reimbursement for medical, travel and rehabilitation costs, the decision to launch a lawsuit comes after the Provincial government refused to pay the costs for private magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and subsequent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in Mr. McCreith’s brain at a Buffalo hospital on March 6, 2006. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan informed Mr. McCreith that since he didn’t get pre-approval for his out-of-country procedure, they would not reimburse him for the services he received. The "catch 22" is that the pre-approval process routinely takes significantly longer than the four and half weeks between Mr. McCreith’s initial MRI and his life saving surgery.

McCreith, a retired small business owner, is seeking a larger role for private health care in Canada: “I had hoped that the Government would carefully consider my case. I didn’t feel I had an option to wait for my medical treatment, given the possibility the tumour was malignant, and had to pay out of pocket to have my brain surgery. The health system has let me down and I don’t want to see other individuals go through the pain and anguish I have suffered,” said McCreith.

Timely Medical Alternatives, which will lead fundraising efforts for the court challenge, said that Canadians are still not receiving timely health care despite record levels of health spending and numerous commitments made by provincial and federal governments.

Richard Baker, President of Timely Medical Alternatives, said: “This case is not about creating a second tier of health care. Instead, it’s about the provincial government’s refusal to provide timely medical treatment for Mr. McCreith, as well as the restrictions on private insurance. In Mr. McCreith’s case, it really was a life or death situation.”

In the opinion of Dr. Gary Magee, Mr. McCreith’s family physician of 35 years, Mr. McCreith could not afford to wait to receive treatment: ”Brain surgery needed to be expedited. Lindsay might not have made it if he had to wait the likely eight months it would have taken him to have a MRI, see a specialist and have surgery.”

Timely Medical Alternatives is asking Ontario patients who have been adversely affected by waiting for medically necessary services as well as by restrictions on private insurance and have had to pay for their own medical treatment to contact the Company as soon as possible to be considered as part of the lawsuit.

Like the landmark Chaoulli case in 2005 when Montreal patient George Zeliotis and physician Jacques Chaoulli won a Supreme Court of Canada battle for the right to buy private medical insurance, Timely Medical Alternatives’ lawsuit will argue that the provincial government’s actions violate the Canadian Charter of Rights.

News of the Timely Medical Alternatives lawsuit could ignite a political debate over long waiting times for medically necessary services, a debate which would be welcomed by Ontario patients as a call to action for the government.

Mrs. Mariana Rosero, a 56 year old Ontario patient whose debilitating back pain grew so severe she could no longer walk as she waited to see a specialist, finally chose to have immediate surgery in Buffalo, again with the help of Timely Medical Alternatives. She hopes the lawsuit will generate changes: “This is a David versus Goliath struggle. If filing a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. McCreith is what it takes to get the government’s attention and make timely medical treatment a priority, then I fully support it and hope the government does something to fix the system.”

Timely Medical Alternative President, Richard Baker, added: “The Canada Health Act is arguably responsible for more misery, suffering and even death, than any other domestic legislation in Canadian history. It’s time that Canadians no longer be asked to sacrifice their health in the name of supporting this Act.”

About Timely Medical Alternatives Inc.

Based in Vancouver, B.C., Timely Medical Alternatives is Canada’s original medical brokerage organization, providing Canadians with medical alternatives to waiting for care in the public health care system. Founded in 2003, we have assisted individuals and families across Canada to obtain timely, private surgery as well as diagnostic imaging. We refer 90% of our clients to private health care providers within Canada for services such as knee and hip joint replacement, gall bladder removal, arthroscopic knee and shoulder surgeries, weight loss surgery and cataract surgery. Typical out-of-country procedures that the Company brokers on behalf of its clients include brain surgery, cardiac surgery, spinal neurosurgery, and cardiac intervention (angioplasties). For more information, please visit


Lindsay McCreith’s Medical History

- In January 2006, Mr. McCreith suffered his first seizure. The Newmarket Hospital diagnoses his seizure as epileptic and prescribes anti-seizure drugs. Mr. McCreith has a MRI scheduled for May 27, 2006.

- During the month of January 2006, Mr. McCreith continues to suffer from headaches and seizures on an almost daily basis. Mr. McCreith decides to seek a second opinion.

- On February 2, 2006, Mr. McCreith contacts Timely Medical Alternatives and the next day has an MRI in Buffalo and is diagnosed with a brain tumour.

- On February 13, 2006, Mr. McCreith returns to Buffalo for a specialist consultation.

- On March 6, 2006, Mr. McCreith returns again to Buffalo for a scheduled biopsy, during which time doctors decide immediately to perform surgery and remove tumour.

- On March 14, the pathology report concludes that Mr. McCreith’s tumour was malignant.

- On May 23, 2006, OHIP rejects Mr. McCreith’s application for refund of medical costs of $27,600 ($US) that he paid out of pocket to the Buffalo hospital.

- In November 2006, Mr. McCreith is cancer-free and agrees to begin process of filing lawsuit against Ontario provincial government.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Public Shaming

Recently, I made my long journey from San Antonio to Toronto, which included 2 stopovers in Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The flights and stops were uneventful and surprisingly all my flights were on time! (I flew United & Air Canada.) During my stops, I tried calling my g-f, but no answer. She was home sleeping! Lucky woman.

Anyway, at the Pearson Airport in Toronto, we needed to take a shuttle bus to the terminal. When I got on the bus, I saw this a "I'm-too-cool" teen girl (17 or 18) chatting on her cell & sitting with her feet crossed over the seat next to her. She was implicitly communicating she did not want anyone sitting by her. She was quite pretty, brunette, & thin.

When I walked in the bus, I saw an open seat, but decided to stand. I'd been sitting on my tired ass for 12 hours, so I figure I could do with a little standing. The bus eventually began to fill and the seats were swallowed up, except one. As the bus began to move, I soon heard the girl talking very loudly to a 30-something woman a few feet from her. The teen was defiantly telling the woman, "He can sit here if you wants to. I'm not stopping him." She was referring to this older gentleman, who was at least 70. He looked over toward her (and the seat he desired), but turned away in dismay. I couldn't see clearly because of the people partially blocking my view, but I think the teen still had her knee protruding on the seat next to her. Apparently, this was "preventing" the older gent from sitting on the seat.

This argument went back & forth for a short bit. But then this guy (late 20s/early 30s, short hair, & glasses) who was close to the teen, leaned into her and gave her this "death stare." She was obviously threatened by it. She raised her voice and yelled something like, "Why are you staring at me like that? Are you gonna hit me?!" The young man gently pulled back. The older man again looked at the girl (or was he coveting that seat?), but again turned away in disgust.

This then became the gossip in the terminal. I overhead a few people talk about it in hushed words: "Did you see what happened with that girl?" "Man, she was pissed." My curiosity was also peaked because I had just witnessed something I hadn't seen in a long time: a good old fashioned public shaming. The girl was trying to be nonchalant about the affair. She told her cell-friend, "Actually, I find it [the stare] rather funny." Funny? I wondered.

Well, about 10 minutes later (Customs was surprisingly fast!...I better count my cross-border's not always like this), she was pacing the baggage claim area and still chatting on her cell. This time, though, she was saying things like, "That's really bugging me." Ah yes, the shaming effect of the stare had taken hold. It was interesting to note that her reaction was one of "fight" or dominance rather than submission. Now this behavior may be the expression of a confident & assertive girl, or alternatively, an arrogant & aggressive lass.

At the time of the shaming, I felt myself siding with the older man and the 2 other people confronting the girl. After all, she did take up the 2 seats "as if" they both belonged to her. But after I observed her reaction in the terminal, I started feeling sympathetic toward her. Did she deserve to be shamed like that? Couldn't the old man just have asked her if he could sit next to her? The shuttle bus etiquette, which was written in the bus, is that young people should give up their seats to older people. Perhaps the older man didn't believe he needed to ask. that the responsibility was hers to offer up the seat. It was a difficult situation to ascribe blame and responsibility, but I'm willing to bet if the older man simply said, "May I sit here?", she would have moved her legs from it.

At baggage claim w hen she picked up her rather large suitcase (she prolly went shopping that weekend at the Mall of America), she looked at the people around her with a smile on her face. It was like she was trying to elicit positive responses from others to counteract the shame. When she turned to me, looking out from under by cowboy hat, I smiled weakly. You have to remember, I was dead tired...only 4 hours sleep before my 12-hour ordeal. I felt a small urge to say something positive and encouraging, but my mind was too sluggish to articulate exactly what I would say.

This incident was interesting from a social moral perspective, as well as a psychological viewpoint. It reminded me of the emotional power of being shamed. Paul Gilbert, a evolutionary psychologist and cognitive therapist who teaches compassionate mind therapy, talks about how indelible shaming experiences can be. Even a single shaming experience can have a powerful, long-lasting (or even life-long) impact. Gilbert gives examples of people remembering solitary shaming experiences decades after they happened. He also referenced an article by Baumeister et al. (2001) entitled "Bad is stronger than good," which discusses how we have more processing systems in the brain for handling threats than dealing with positive experiences. (I plan to read it.) Will this girl ever forget this experience? I've blogged it, so I know I won't. :-)