04/10/2018 15:33 EDT | Updated 04/10/2018 15:33 EDT

If Wynne Truly Believes In 'Care Not Cuts,' She'd Let This End-Of-Life Law Pass

Dan's Law is a private member's bill that died when Wynne prorogued the legislature. But she can still make it up.

Election season in Ontario is in full swing. Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party have been ratcheting up the rhetoric and clearly identifying their election strategy. This election, they say, is all about "caring." Wynne has even gone so far as to steal the slogan from her most vehement opposition, Concerned Ontario Doctors, and state that she believes we have to decide between "care or cuts."

(Plagiarizing for political expediency is an old political tactic.)

She has rolled out an ambitious set of promises all in the name of "caring." "Free" child care for pre-school children. "Free" tuition to post-secondary schools. "Free" prescription drugs for seniors. "Free" drug and dental benefits. It's no wonder that in the Twitterverse, some are comparing Wynne's campaign to an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, where everybody gets something for nothing.

Of course, none of this stuff is "free." It is paid for by your hard earned tax dollars. Additionally, no rational person actually believes the money exists for this. The Financial Accountability Office has already said that, contrary Wynne's assertions, the 2017/2018 Ontario budget is NOT balanced for this year, with a potential deficit of up to $4 billion. Never mind the even higher deficits Wynne has already stated she will run next year.

If you really believe that, on the off chance that Wynne is re-elected, she will keep her promises — well, I know of a person who is looking to get his money out his country, and if you just give him your bank account information...

For those of us in health care, all her proliferate promises of investments in health care ring hollow. Wynne helped to create the health care crisis we are experiencing by refusing to properly fund hospitals, refusing to add nursing home beds, slashing mental health and addiction funding, and refusing to prevent layoffs of nursing staff until, of course, just before election time. All of her exorbitant promises on how she's going to invest in health care now are simply a deathbed confession. Nobody with common sense believes her words, as her actions have clearly undermined her expansive promises.

Mathieu Belanger / Reuters
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

There is, however, one action that she can take that will show that she actually does care. An action that the groundwork has already been laid for, and the resources are (reasonably) in place for. Best of all, it won't cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. She can ensure that Dan's Law passes before the current session of the legislature ends.

Dan's Law is named for Dan Duma. Dan left Windsor, Ont. in 2013 for Alberta, where a new job awaited him. Tragically, three years later he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Like most of us, he wanted to spend his last days with his family, so he returned to Windsor where his children were. Upon return, he found that he did not qualify for any home care supports until he was in Ontario for three months (he only had a month to live).

There was a herculean effort put forth by my colleague Dr. Darren Cargill to get Dan at least some of the care that he needed. Having spent 26 years dealing with home care bureaucracy for patients who are covered, I cannot imagine how hard it was for Dr. Cargill to get care for someone who was not entitled to coverage through a loophole.

Dan wanted to die at home. It's appalling he didn't get his final wish.

What's worse, Dan was the FIFTH such patient Dr. Cargill had (as of 2016). While Dr. Cargill deserves to be commended for his efforts, not enough can be said about his daughters who bathed Dan, provided personal care and supported him pretty well round the clock for most of the final month of his life, because home care refused to provide services.

Eventually, Dan died in a hospice (Dr. Cargill pulled strings to get emergency funding). I have no doubt that the hospice provided excellent care, but Dan wanted to die at home. It's appalling he didn't get his final wish.

In response, MPP Lisa Gretzky sponsored a private members bill removing the three-month rule for palliative (end of life) patients. As is clearly noted by her and Dr. Cargill, while Dan could have been in hospital at no cost to the family, it would have cost the system $1,000 per day. Home care would cost considerably less. The numbers of patients affected by this loop hole are also incredibly small, so we are not talking big dollars here. We are talking about allowing people who are already dying to have some dignity and peace in their last hours.

Gretzky's private members bill quickly passed first and second reading in Provincial Parliament in 2016. Then, for 16 months, it sat before the Justice Policy committee and nothing happened. This committee is chaired by a physician, Dr. Shafiq Qaadri (yes, that one). How a physician could not have empathy for this situation is beyond me.

Worse, on March 15, Wynne prorogued the legislature "to lay out government priorities." (If you believe that, my friend is still available.) As a result, Dan's Law died, and has to be re-introduced. Who knows how long it will take to pass now.

A politician once said, "Care isn't a weakness. It isn't government overstepping. It's who we are. It's what we do." That politician? None other than Premier Kathleen Wynne. If these are not just empty words on her part, then she will do the right thing. She has the power to ensure Dan's Law passes in the legislature before her term's up. She can prove that caring, to her, is more than an empty election promise to woo votes.

Will she?

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