If Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams urgently needed heart surgery that could not be performed in Canada, all he has to do is say so and the controversy over his decision to seek medical care in the U.S. will end.
Even if Williams, a millionaire who donates his salary as premier to charity, paid for it himself, it's hard to criticize anyone for using their own resources to seek the best medical care available.
This as opposed to having the operation done in Canada, and possibly having to wait in line, simply to make a political statement in support of medicare. (Newfoundland's medical wait times are among the longest in Canada.)
Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Williams' surgery wasn't available in Newfoundland, but not whether it could have been performed in Canada.
Vicki Kaminksi, head of Newfoundland's largest health authority, said Williams -- who hasn't publicly commented -- acted on the recommendations of local doctors, who referred him out-of-province.
But Canadian experts like pioneering heart surgeon Dr. Wilbert Keon -- a Conservative senator -- told the Globe and Mail there's "no question" Williams could have chosen treatment in Canada. Alberta cardiac surgeon Dr. Arvind Koshal said Williams was setting a bad example, adding: "The optics are very poor, especially for people who are proponents of the Canadian health-care system."
Opponents of President Barack Obama's medicare initiative in the U.S. are chortling Williams is just the latest Canadian politician to opt for U.S. health care.
More significantly, our Supreme Court in 2005 -- citing wealthy individuals who could bypass wait times under medicare by heading south -- ruled Quebec's law banning private medical insurance, and by implication similar laws across Canada, were unconstitutional because they denied patients the ability to seek timely care when medicare can't provide it.
Editorial - Have a heart Danny Williams, speak up.