Sunday, July 15, 2007

Canadian Nurses love 'Sicko': Hand out free tickets to help prevent the Canadian system going the American way

My friend Dr. Ross Bailey from Toronto kindly sent me this story further to our earlier debate about health care. It speaks for itself, and it makes some of the points I was stressing. The nurses of Canada know perfectly well that if Canada adopts the American system, many folks will fall through the cracks-- particularly the poor ones.
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario gives Michael Moore’s new film SiCKO two thumbs up

TORONTO, July 13, 2007 - The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is encouraging all nurses to take advantage of a special promotion which offers them free admission to filmmaker Michael Moore’s documentary SiCKO. Alliance Atlantis Canada has announced that all nurses in the country can attend the film for free from Monday, July 16 to Thursday, July 19.

Yesterday, Michael Moore was quoted in an Alliance Atlantis media release as saying “Nurses across Canada are on the front line in the battle against those forces who want to inch the Canadian health-care system toward the American way. They know that once a Canadian sees ‘SiCKO’, the last thing they will want is an American-style approach.” Moore was applauding the United Nurses of Alberta who distributed 150 free tickets to his film to members of the public. Moore has offered to reimburse the union.

On behalf of all the nurses in Ontario, RNAO would like to thank Michael Moore and Alliance Atlantis for recognizing the key role nurses play in our health-care system. “Michael, nurses stand by you. We share your passion for a universal and not-for-profit health-care system and we thank you for your honest and courageous documentary. I’ve watched it twice and it is absolutely terrific!” says Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s Executive Director, who lived in the US for six years before immigrating to Canada.

SiCKO provides an insightful analysis of the for-profit health-care system in the US and contrasts it with universal health-care systems in other countries, including Canada. “Nurses who see the film will learn more about the American health-care system and will feel proud they live in Canada - a country where health care is a human right and not a commodity,” says RNAO President Mary Ferguson-ParĂ©.

Nurses’ knowledge, expertise and compassion are central to the Medicare system established by Tommy Douglas. “We encourage nurses to use what they learn in Moore’s film to engage their families, friends and neighbours in discussions about Medicare. These discussions are particularly important given the Ontario election this fall and the potential for a federal election,” adds Ferguson-ParĂ©.

All Registered Nurses (RNs), Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) across the country are eligible for one free admission to SiCKO from Monday, July 16 to Thursday, July 19 at any Cineplex Entertainment, Empire or Landmark Theatre. In order to receive a free ticket, nurses must show photo identification and one of the following: their license, practice permit, registration card or union ID.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association for registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.


Below is a media release from Alliance Atlantis explaining why they’re offering nurses free admission to the film.



TORONTO, ONTARIO – July 12, 2007 - In an effort to encourage members of the public to see Michael Moore’s latest provocative and acclaimed film SiCKO last week, The United Nurses of Alberta purchased 150 tickets to distribute to the public. Today, Michael Moore congratulated their efforts and offered to reimburse the union for their action.

When reached for comment, Michael Moore stated, "Nurses across Canada are on the front line in the battle against those forces who want to inch the Canadian health care system toward the American way. They know that once a Canadian sees SiCKO, the last thing they will want is an American-style approach. The problems that do exist with the Canadian system are a result of it being under-funded. The solution to better health care in Canada cannot be found south of the border."

As further show of appreciation, Alliance Atlantis* Motion Picture Distribution announced today that it will offer one free admission to see SiCKO to all nurses across Canada for a limited time starting on Monday, July 16th through to Thursday, July 19th. Nurses must present valid documentation at the box office of participating theatres**.

“Sometimes it takes an American like Michael Moore, to remind us of what Canada does right,” says United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith. “Some people are constantly pushing to turn health care into a profit-making business. SiCKO is an excellent vaccination against that privatization disease. It’s good for our health.”

Jim Sherry, Executive Managing Director of Alliance Atlantis* Motion Picture Distribution comments, “We applaud the United Nurses of Alberta for their enthusiasm and hope to encourage others in the nursing profession to see the film that continues to spark debate across this country. By offering this opportunity to nurses across Canada, we are acknowledging the considerable amount of interest that has been expressed to us by several nurses unions and it is our hope that this gesture will resonate in continued dialogue and debate surrounding this remarkable film.”

Canadian exhibitors, Cineplex Entertainment and Empire Theatres, have displayed overwhelming support by participating in this special promotion as well as displaying generous support to the nurses' unions throughout the country.


Percival said...

If you think this news is interesting, here are some other news flashes.
or this one,
Please Dr. Witherington. Consider the source. They may be completely correct in their opposition, but as for their credibility, I'm sceptical.

Carrie Ann said...

All I know is this: I'm a college student who can barely afford to be in school let alone get sick. While I'm still covered under my parents insurance, if I get sick I still have to pay a several hundred dollars before my insurance covers anything. Thankful I attend a school that offers a free clinic. The sad thing is that there are people worse off than me. I don't know what the solution to the problem is but I do know there is a problem. As Christians, we generally have no problem with sending money to Africa or sending doctors to do mission work but we aren't willing to help out the folks in our own backyard that can't afford quality health care.

Falantedios said...

You are exactly right, Carrie Ann. It is absolutely the responsibiity of Christians to step out in faith and sponsor and support health care ministries in our own back yards.

Would it be difficult? Yes.
Would some people be expected to do more than just come to church? Yes.

The responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of Christians are pretty clearly laid out in the NT, and caring for the poor doesn't look like something the church is supposed to pass the buck on to government.

Dr Ben, watch All The King's Men and you will see a beautiful depiction of why top-down change does not work. The Gospels are about God working from the bottom up. We must work with patience, perseverance, and faith and not demand from our governments what God does not require of them.

in HIS love,
Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Nick:

Actually top down change often works-- its called laws passed by legislatures from above, legislatures peopled by our elected representatives. I am all for bottom up help from the church, but it will be too spotty and sporadic, hence the need for top down change as well. Let me ask you something Nick-- were you happy with the recent Supreme Court decision that effected Roe vs. Wade or not? If so, that is an example of necessary top down change.

And Percival I quite agree with considering the source of information. That said, drastic changes need to happen to our medical system. Of course it will not be free to tax payers who do pay taxes. That's irrelevant. The issue is if we think so-called socialized medicine is all bad, then we must logically take Medicare and Medicade away from our senior citizens-- would you be prepared to do that? I don't think so. So, the real question is how much government mandate health care network do we want?


Ben W.

Blake Huggins said...

I have a situation similar to carrie ann's. I am also a student and a newly wed. I haven't had health insurance in 4 years. Thankfully, I have had any serious medical issues and my institution offers a free clinic for minor problems. My heart goes out to those that don't even have that luxury. Our system is broken.

As for the top down/bottom up issue, I don't think it should be either/or. It should be and/both. It's the church's job (if we take our charge seriously) to demand better results; likewise, it is the job of the government to listen to the people when they speak the truth and pass just legislation and enact better policy.

I know this doesn't always work, but it takes time and effort. That's why we need both, neither can do it solely on its own. We must work together instead of pulling against each other and work toward transformation.


Ben Witherington said...


Let me give an analogy. If any of you have seen the fine movie about William Wilberforce called 'Amazing Grace' (and the book also about him), Wilberforce spent his life, and his health, as a Christian person fighting for the abolition of the slave trade in the U.K. Now there was plenty of preaching in churches about this at the time-- John Wesley wrote one of his last letters supporting Wilberforce and what he was doing, and John Newton the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace was something of a mentor to Wilberforce.

But had Wilberforce not sought a top down change, through a change in British law, had he not become a member of Parliament and worked that way for change, it is unlikely it would have happened at the beginning of the 19th century as it did in England. Look how much longer it went on in the U.S.-- well over half a century and it led to a horrendous civil war.

Thus, as has been said, some problems are so systemic they require both a top down change, and a bottom up one. What I would insist is that in America top down change happens in a democratic way, not some other way. It happens through participating in the political process, voting, supporting legislation and the like. None of this has anything to do with socialism and so we need to stop using silly terms like socialized medicine when we are talking about things legislated by democratic vote and assemblies. In our country a majority vote leads to public policy, and that is surely the essence of democracy.


Ben W.

Indie Pereira said...

My husband is a teacher and I'm a stay at home mom. The insurance for me and our children though my husband's school was much more than we could afford so we bought a high deductible plan. Our deductible is $5000 and it doesn't include maternity coverage. I'm pregnant. We have to pay entirely out of pocket for the birth. We would qualify for free state insurance for the children and maternity care for me, but you have to be without insurance for at least three months to qualify. My husband has a new job that he starts in the fall and we will have much better health insurance, but I would love to see a universal system to benefit everyone.

I also remember the college student dilemma. If you get married you lose your parents' health insurance. If you shack up you get to keep it. My husband and I were without health insurance after we married in college and there were times when we should have gone to the doctor and didn't because we were worried about the money.

Look at our infant mortality rate compared to countries with universal health care systems all of which (as far as I've seen in my research) allow coverage for midwives and homebirth if the woman chooses (Why wouldn't they? It saves substantial amounts of money). Apparently conservative Christians are pro-life unless it means paying for women to be able to afford to birth their babies. Have we ever thought that if the maternity care of a woman's choice were free that she might be more likely to birth the child whether or not she keeps it. An abortion in my city costs $500-$600. I will be paying six times that for the least expensive birth available, a homebirth with a midwife. When it comes to family values and taking care of children, we are all talk and no action. How can we not, as Christians, demand equitable health care for everyone?

Bob Hunter said...

As a Canadian living and working in the United States I have been urging those in Canada to avoid adopting the American system. Canada's system may be a long ways from perfect, but at least people aren't dying or going into a lifetime of debt for lack of coverage.

Blake Huggins said...

Of course analogies could be given for either argument, but that is beside the point. The point is we need consistent effort and from the bottom and the top.

Most efforts begin from the bottom. They have to. BW3's analogy is one such case. The effort began in the grassroots, but that wasn't good enough. The powers that be had to be awakened from their complacency. It takes people from the bottom to do that more times that not. To demand better results of their governments.

Margaret Mead once said something very profound, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Very profound. It usually takes people from the grassroots to raise the questions and speak the truth, but that doesn't mean they should undermine and disrespect democracy. They just need to participate in the process and channel their effort into tangible efforts while demanding results.

Over time, things can't help but change. But only if enough people really care. I'm not sure enough people do right now, too many are affluent and their voices overpower those that aren't.


James Pate said...

You mention Medicare and Medicaid, Dr. Witherington. Those programs cost A LOT, and they do not even cover everyone. Imagine how much universal health care would cost.

Ben Witherington said...


We have the lowest tax rate of any major Western democracy. We have nothing to complain about when it comes to taxes. We could certainly stand higher federal taxes if they would go to solving the health care issues.


James Pate said...

But high taxes are harmful to the economy. Also, a fair question to ask is the extent to which U.S. government involvement is actually responsible for our current ills. I will supply more examples soon, but one example that comes to mind is our restriction on the importation of cheap prescription drugs. I agree with Bush on a lot of issues, but not on this, since it is the government restricting competition.

James Gibson said...

To begin with, we are not a "Western democracy." There is no such animal. We are a representative republic founded on the principle of limited government. We pay less taxes because we have less government. At least, that's what the Founders intended. No matter how much "lower" our tax rates may be than other countries (whatever their form of government), our current system of confiscatory taxation is immoral and has devastating effects on every aspect of society, discouraging creativity and productivity in the very fields which could produce needed solutions to healthcare and other problems.

James Pate is absolutely correct. Most, if not all, the deficiencies in our healthcare system are attributable to unwarranted government involvement. It is not the government's responsibility to look after the physical health of the citizenry. Whenever it attempts to take on such a responsibility, it fails because it is not equipped to be an agent of compassion. Government is a dispassionate entity whose only appropriate responsibility is to restrain evil and maintain order. When government is limited to that sphere of responsibility, other entities, better equipped to be agents of compassion, are empowered to carry out their appropriate responsibilities uninhibited by unnecessary interference.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks James G. You seem to have forgotten our country was founded on the assumption that taxation with representation was fine, but taxation without it was not. And no, we are not now the Republic you describe, though we could debate whether that is really what the founding fathers had in mind.

James P. I'm afraid you are largely wrong about the results of higher taxes. Has it harmed the economy of the Scandanavian states? I see no evidence of that. Is Switzerland in trouble due to high taxes? How about the economy of the U.K.? I see no evidence of what you are suggesting.

Mr. Gibson, in what ways exactly has the minimal controls and involvment of government and law on the medical industry been the ruination of medicine in this country-- and equally importantly for whom? Certainly too much government has not been the problem for why many people cannot afford health care or treatment.

Ben W

Falantedios said...

The problem with top-down change, Ben is that it only changes externals.

Did Wilberforce's work in Parliament change the evil in the hearts of men that allowed them to enslave another race?

Will legislating universal health care change the hearts of those that don't care about the poor?

Will reversing Roe v. Wade change the hearts of those whose callous disregard drives young women to abortion clinics? Will it do one single thing to change the atmosphere of promiscuity in America? Will it drive churches to provide counseling, to offer encouragement, to do the challenging daily work of love that people considering abortion NEED?

Please believe me when I say that I hate racism. I hate cruelty to the poor. I hate abortion. These are each complex issues about which I cannot speak with due exhaustiveness in the context of a brief blog comment, but let me suggest that if law could change the hearts of men and restore God's creation (the business that Christ and his people are in), Paul would have written a much different letter to Rome.

in HIS love,

Ben Witherington said...


My answer to this is yes Nick, top down change does make a difference, a big difference. While I would agree with you that changing hearts is more crucial for there to be lasting and systemic change, this should not be seen as an either or proposition. Let me give you an illustration.

Until the apartheid laws were abolished in South Africa, it was not even possible for some people to contemplate a change of heart in regard to their racism. Until they were legally held responsible for their actions, and there was a truth and reconciliation commission working for justice and also forgiveness, many South Africans were not prepared to admit they had sinned against their black brothers and sisters. And the most atrocious part of that whole situation is that South Africa is overwhelming Christian in character-- both Afrikans and African Christians. In fact it is the most Christian nation I have ever taught in.

Laws without heart transformation is of course not enough-- but thank God for laws that begin to push people to rethink and in the right direct, push people to re-examine their hearts. William Wilberforce knew perfectly well that sometimes if you want to change hearts and minds, then you have to change the laws. Martin Luther King knew this as well. Thank God for the civil rights laws that were passed as a result of the civil rights movement.

Privatistic pietism is not what the Bible calls us to.


Ben W.

James Pate said...

But some European countries, such as Germany, are pursuing a conservative route. I also wonder how much the socialized European nations are benefitting from the American economy's productivity(though trade).

What I say about taxes is reasonable. Businesses like places where they do not have to pay high taxes. The more money people have in their pockets, the more money they can use to stimulate the economy.

Also, I do not think that government's involvement in U.S. health care has been minimal. I noted the restriction on imported prescription drugs as an example of government policy that keeps prices high. Medicare and Medicaid also drive up prices through the complex paperwork that they impose on doctors, and they have also penalized doctors for charging less than a prescribed amount in certain cases. Moreover, who was responsible for HMOs becoming so powerful? The federal government, which encouraged them in the 1970's. America is freer than other parts of the world, but we do not have a truly free market economy. We have a system in which the government supports certain powerful interests and restricts competition.

James Gibson said...

First of all, I reject the premise that healthcare in the U.S. is in some kind of "ruinous" state, so I'm not blaming government involvement for any major crisis. What I am saying is that the imperfections in our system which are exploited by propaganda artists like Michael Moore are largely the result of unwarranted government intervention. As for some not being able to afford health insurance, most of the blame can be laid at the feet of ambulance chasing lawyers who drive up malpractice costs, thus resulting in higher medical costs for the patients. If you really want a "government solution," how about advocating tort reform and, maybe, some kind of legislation that would require insurance companies to pay for whatever medication a doctor prescribes, not just those on some arbitrary list of approved drugs? Those are simple, commonsense reforms which could easily be implemented. But the politicians are too beholden to special interest groups (certainly not something the Founders would have wanted). Instead of doing the simple things they could do well, they pursue a grandiose bureaucratic solution which will never work and, if implemented, really would put healthcare in a "ruinous" state.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks James:

Good retort on tort reform, which by the way I am all in favor of and I agree insurance companies need to be held responsible for more, but it will not deal with some of the systemic issues.



James Gibson said...

Just so you will understand where I'm coming from. . .

I am a chaplain at one of the largest medical centers in South Carolina, located in the fastest growing county in the state. For about three years, we have been trying to open a state of the art heart facility. We have the finances, we have the technology, we have the human resources. What we don't have is approval from the state regulatory agency which has consistently refused to certify that there is a need for such a facility, claiming the facility at a hospital in the adjacent county is sufficient for the region. The state legislature passed a bill exempting us from the certification process, but the governor vetoed it. He would like to do away with the whole certification process (at least, that was his rationale for the veto), but no such comprehensive bill has yet come across his desk. So, if we take both the legislature and the governor at their word, they both believe healthcare institutions need more freedom from regulation, but they can't agree on how to give them that freedom.

Now, that's just at the state level. If the feds ever got involved in this kind of process, it would be ten times worse than our present headache. There would also be the inevitable church/state issue which would cause endless problems for hospitals such as ours which make pastoral care an integral part of a holistic approach to healthcare.

Falantedios said...

Dear Ben,

I don't see what happened in South Africa as a top-down change. Bishop Tutu and others spent their lives digging, fertilizing, preparing the soil for the fruit of peace to burst forth. What happened at the end was like what happens with a tree: a whole lot of work went on below before the beautiful fruit burst forth up top. Part of the point of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I believe Volf also touches on in Exclusion and Embrace, is that BOTH sides sinned against one another, and that justice is about setting things right, not punishing one side and vindicating the other. Change in South Africa did not start at the top. It started at the bottom.

in HIS love,

Ben Witherington said...

Well Nick, that's an interesting spin on things, but in fact there was no truth and reconciliation committee before there was change of regime at the top. Of course you are right that Tutu and others were working all along to change things, but I know Bishop Peter Storey personally, the Methodist who was involved with Tutu, and had their not be regime change at the top, there would have been no justice at the bottom. And frankly the truth and reconciliation commission was 95% about Africans forgiving Afrikans there many skins against Africans. There was very little to forgive in the other direction.


Ben W.

Ben Witherington said...

err make that forgiving their sins-- not their skins.