Shona Holmes health care incident
Shona Holmes, or Shona Robertson-Holmes, (born 1964 (age 53–54)) is a Canadian woman who underwent treatment for a Rathke's cleft cyst in the United States, and claimed the condition threatened her life. Her cyst was removed August 1, 2005. Holmes sought treatment in the US claiming that she was unable to get timely treatment in Canada. Holmes sued the Ontario provincial government seeking payment for her medical and travel expenses. She has given testimony before members of the US Congress during a Republican-sponsored hearing about healthcare legislation, and has appeared in ads seeking to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and defeat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
The facts surrounding her medical condition are controversial and cannot be independently verified because she has refused to release her medical records, citing her lawsuit. However, the Mayo Clinic, where the surgery was performed, has stated that she could have eventually lost her sight without surgery.
She is a resident of Waterdown, Ontario, a small community in the rural part of Hamilton. In 2007, she described herself as a family mediator. In 2008, she described herself as a patient advocate.
September 2007 lawsuit
Holmes initiated a lawsuit against the Ontario government on September 5, 2007. The Canadian Constitution Foundation sponsored the lawsuit, which also included Lindsay McCreith, a Newmarket, Ontario resident, who traveled to the United States for timely treatment of a brain tumor. Her case cited Chaoulli v Quebec, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on direct billing filed by Quebec physician Jacques Chaoulli. As of September 2009, the lawsuit was still unresolved.
Holmes published a YouTube video of her appearance on Global TV in 2007. Holmes and her husband have two YouTube channels (homiemagnum and shonaholmes3) where copies were placed for the Canadian Constitution Foundation. This group is backing the joint statement of claim, along with Lindsay McCreith of Newmarket, against the province of Ontario. In 2009, the Holmes story was publicized in the United States debates on American health care reform. Holmes continued to participate in the US health care debate, publishing op-eds in American papers.
US advertising controversy
2009 US television advertisement
In 2009 her story was presented in a US television advertisement as a cautionary tale of what Americans could expect if they were to adopt a publicly funded health care system like the Canadian health care system. The advertisement was paid for by "Patients United Now," a project of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, an American conservative political advocacy group. The ad featuring Holmes was broadcast at a cost of $1.8 million in eight US states.
"We went 100 per cent into socialized medicine and we lost all our options," Holmes said recently of the Canadian system.
After being told she would have to wait six months for treatment in Canada, she mortgaged her home to pay $100,000 for treatment at the Mayo Clinic. She is quoted as saying the Canadian health care system failed her. In an ad broadcast on American television she said, "If I'd relied on my government, I'd be dead."
While Holmes referred to her condition as a "brain tumor," Ian Welsh, writing in the Huffington Post, reports that while the Mayo Clinic characterizes Holmes's treatment as a success, they say she had "a Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland". The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) interviewed neurosurgeons in Montreal and Toronto who described her claims as exaggerated; they stated that her condition was a benign cyst, not a medical emergency. The Mayo Clinic has been cited as saying that the condition is "not known to be fatal" and makes no claim that her life was in danger, but it stated that she could have eventually lost her sight without surgery.
The use of her claims in the US stirred great controversy in Canada, where the Canadian health care system is popular across the political spectrum. The use of her claims triggered comments from Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal Party of Canada's health critic, who called her case "an exception to the rule." Jim Meek wrote in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, commenting on the strength of Canadian reaction to the Holmes claims:
- "Holmes attacked our medical system from inside the U.S., which is seen in this country as an act of High Treason."
On July 23, 2009, a few days following the publication of the ad, the Hamilton Spectator reported on its front page the troubles faced by another resident of Waterdown, whose home phone was also listed under the name "S. Holmes".
According to the Spectator, Palmira Holmes was inundated by callers' wanting to chastise Shona Holmes, describing the volume of calls as "like being bombarded". The Spectator commented that the volume of angry calls Palmira was receiving was consistent with the large volume of comments left on Canadian media websites.
"Canadian media websites that have carried items on the ad have registered more than 1,000 critical online comments since Monday. A key area of discussion for critics is whether the facts about Holmes' case are accurately portrayed."
The Toronto Star published a letter to the editor from another Waterdown resident, who had a true brain tumor. She described the care she received in the Canadian health care system as being of "exceptional quality". Her letter concluded with the comment: "I know our health care system works and if Holmes didn't have a problem with her physician what exactly are her motives for taking part in this media spectacle?"
Democrats Abroad reaction
The Hamilton Spectator interviewed Kenneth Sherman, a leader of a group of American expatriates who live in Canada. According to Sherman, Americans who lived in Canada, and received care under the Canadian health care system, recognized that if her account was accurate, her case was an atypical one. He challenged the accuracy of her account. He said the Americans who were members of his group, Democrats Abroad, received care under the Canadian health care system and were considering sponsoring a counterad to rebut Holmes' claims.
2012 political ad
Holmes was featured again in an advertisement targeting the 2012 United States presidential election. In the ad, placed by the political action committee "Americans For Prosperity", Holmes refers to the condition treated as a "rare brain condition."
- San Diego Union Tribune http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2009/sep/30/us-fact-check-obama-opponents-093009/
- House Republican Health Care Solutions Group, Introduction
- SAINT JOHN'S HEALTH CENTER (or John Wayne Cancer Center) Occasionally, this remnant enlarges to form a cyst. RCCs can cause pituitary failure, headaches and in some instances, vision loss.
- Julie Mason (2009-07-27). "Time for a reality check on CNN's 'reality check'". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Shona Holmes (2008-07-19). "Shona Holmes: Don't destroy American health system: Canadians need it". Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Joan Walters (2009-07-18). "Obama health plan foes put on a Canadian face: Hamilton brain tumour survivor tells Americans that Canada's universal care system failed her". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- Ian Welsh (2009-07-21). "Americans Lives vs. Insurance Company Profits: The Real Battle in Health Care Reform". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Canadian defends anti-medicare ad". CBC News. 2009-07-21. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
- Lori Robertson (2009-07-22). "Canadian Straw Man: More ads claim Congress is pushing Canadian-style health care". Nebraska State Paper. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Tanya Talaga (2007-09-06). "Patients suing province over wait times: Man, woman who couldn't get quick treatment travelled to U.S. to get brain tumours removed". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Lindsay McCreith, 66, of Newmarket and Shona Holmes, 43, of Waterdown filed a joint statement of claim yesterday against the province of Ontario. Both say their health suffered because they are denied the right to access care outside of Ontario's "government-run monopolistic" health-care system. They want to be able to buy private health insurance.
- R Bobak (2007-11-30). "Report showed questions need asking about health care". Niagara this week. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Lynn M. Shanks (2007-09-08). "Bring on two-tier health". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Sam Solomon (2007-09-30). "New lawsuit threatens Ontario private care ban: "Ontario Chaoulli" case seeks to catalyze healthcare reform". 4 (16). National Review of Medicine. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Nadeem Esmail (2009-02-09). "'Too Old' for Hip Surgery: As we inch towards nationalized health care, important lessons from north of the border". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- "Auditor says Ontario should post wait times for every surgeon". CBC News. 2008-10-08. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Tom Blackwell (2007-09-06). "Lawsuit challenges ban on private care: Patient Treated In U.S.; Wait list almost cost Ontario woman her eyesight". National Post. Archived from the original on 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
- Lindsay McCreith, Shona Holmes (2007-09-05). "Lindsay McCreith and Shona Holmes v. Attorney General of Ontario: Statement of Claim". University of Toronto. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-09-24.
- "Lindsay McCreith and Shona Holmes v. Attorney General of Ontario: Statement of Defence" (PDF). Office of the Attorney General of Ontario. 2008-09-07.[dead link]
- Jonathan D. Salant, Nicole Gaouette (2009-07-25). "Health-Care Ads 'Go Over the Cliff' to Sway U.S. on Obama Plan". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Calvin Woodward (2009-09-30). "FACT CHECK: Loose facts in health horror story". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
But her story? It's not quite the slam-dunk indictment of socialized medicine that's been portrayed by Republican lawmakers and their allies.
- Smith, Joanna (July 29, 2009). "Ontario jumps into health row; Province fights court challenge from woman used in U.S. ad assailing Canada's public system". Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario. p. A14. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- Alison Smith (2009-07-21). "U.S. Health Care Reform". CBC. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Anti-medicare ad an exaggeration: experts". CBC News. 2009-07-31. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
Jim Meek (2009-07-25). "Shona's tumour and Canada's state of mind". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
THE story of Shona Holmes — brain tumour and all — has thrown Canada’s chattering classes into a tailspin. Holmes attacked our medical system from inside the U.S., which is seen in this country as an act of High Treason.
Naomi Lakritz (2009-07-24). "Canadian health care hardly a Marxism threat". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
As former federal Health minister Ujjal Dosanjh says, 'I think one of the things that we need to keep in mind is that Ms. Holmes may be an exception to the rule. We shouldn't let extreme exceptions that can happen in any system define the entire system. We, according to her, have a wonderful health-care system, and what we need to do is improve it.'
Jill Colvin (2009-07-23). "Critics use Canada to assail Obama's health plan". Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
An Ontario woman warns Americans she would have died of a brain tumour had she not gone to the United States for private care.
- Joan Waters (2009-07-18). "City woman recruited by health-plan foes in U.S." Hamilton Spectator. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
Carmela Fragomeni (2009-07-23). "You have the wrong S. Holmes". Hamilton Spectator. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
Palmira Holmes has been inundated with phone calls from people trying to express their fury over Shona Holmes' decision to become the face of an aggressive American TV ad that slams Canadian-style health care.
- Dana Brown (2009-07-27). "She's glad calls for Shona stopped". Hamilton Spectator. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
"More health care letters". Toronto Star. 2009-07-25. Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
Shona Holmes is not the only Waterdown woman to have been diagnosed with a brain tumor. But I disagree with her completely. I can't recall a single case of people dying because they have had to wait for a surgery to be scheduled, unless an organ donor couldn't be found. In my experience, priority cases receive attention. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery at Hamilton General four weeks ago to remove it. It took place in a reasonable amount of time and with an exceptional quality of care and to my utmost satisfaction. From personal experience, I know our health care system works and if Holmes didn't have a problem with her physician what exactly are her motives for taking part in this media spectacle?
"New ad knocks Obama for Canadian-style health care". CBS News. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
A new TV ad released Tuesday from the pro-Republican group Americans for Prosperity criticizes President Obama's health care law and urges voters to vote against him because of it. The new ad, called "Replace," compares the law to Canada's health care system and features Shona Holmes, a Canadian who said she needed time-sensitive care and sought health care in the U.S. to avoid long waits in Canada. In the ad, Holmes said a doctor told her husband that she wouldn't be alive long enough to wait for her Canadian appointment.
Gerry Mullany (2012-09-04). "Ad Takes Aim at Obama Health Overhaul". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
The Republican-leaning non-profit group Americans for Prosperity is debuting a new commercial at the start of the Democratic National Convention, suggesting that President Obama's health care overhaul would leave the United States with a system much like Canada’s, one in which costly delays in treatment would threaten people's lives. The commercial quotes a Canadian woman, Shona Holmes, who was suffering from a rare brain condition and came to the United States for treatment because, she says, the delays in the Canadian medical care system would have put her life in danger from the illness