Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why Jack Layton Must Survive

Layton's fate will become rhetorical signal for health care

Canadian politics was shaken recently by the news that Jack Layton has been struck with prostrate cancer.

Speaking testaments to the strength and resolve of his character, he has announced his intention to remain on as the leader of the NDP even while receiving treatment for the illness. He has, however, admitted that the illness will slow him down -- at least temporarily.

His father successfully fought the same disease, and doctors report that it has been diagnosed with enough time to (hopefully) successfully treat it.

But even as Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams venturing south of the border for a heart procedure, Layton has reportedly opted to remain in Canada to receive treatment for his ailment.

And even beyond the basic human reason why Layton must survive -- that he is a human being who, despite any disagreement regarding politics, is owed the same consideration as any other morally worthy human being -- this makes Layton's survival crucial.

As the health care debate continues to rage in the United States, events like Williams' plans to be treated in the United States have been dropped into the rhetorical arsenal of those opposing universal health care. The argument is that if Canadian health care can't provide treatment for the head of one of the country's governments, then it isn't a model that the United States should emulate.

This has been troubling enough for supporters of Canada's health care system -- even among many of those who urge the need for some necessary reforms -- if Layton were to die of prostate cancer while in the care of the Canadian public health care system, it would be that much worse.

Fairly or unfairly, Layton's fate will be used to rhetorically judge the Canadian health care system. A successful recovery from what seems to be a comparably routine illness will serve as vindication for Canadian health care. His passing, in turn, would be used to condemn it.

For Jack Layton -- a lifetime advocate of Canada's health care system (some may even suggest that he has often been an apologist for its deficiencies) -- to be used to rhetorically undermine the credibility of Canada's public health care system would be a fate much worse than the death itself.

Whatever becomes of Layton, he deserves much, much better than that.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Glen Pearson - "Collective Mortality"

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