Public interest in the Ontario Ministry of Health individual I.D. card is building. Both the televised “hot-line” and the main Queen’s Park office, are receiving calls – mainly from worried parents – spokesmen say. Despite the Ministry’s TV ad campaign, picturing loving families in cozy, at home settings, many parents are not buying the Ministry’s propaganda. They are not convinced their children need identification numbers on plastic cards.
In a personal effort to make m views known, I phoned the TV hot-line number in Toronto, Half expecting another story on OHIP fraud or administrative streamlining, I was surprised b the undisguised response to my “Why do my children need their own OHIP cards?” The young man matter-of-factly declared that the card was intended to protect children’s “privacy.” Just suppose, he said, a child had a disease and did not want his parents to know. Now, with his own OHIP number, his parents would not have access to the child’s file or any medical information on him. On his own, the child could seek treatment without his parents’ knowledge or consent. Total privacy!
A second phone call to the Ministry’s Queen Park number was answered by a sympathetic young man who was fully aware of parents’ concerns and who had a few of his own. He had received several calls from taxpayers. Unable to answer some of my questions, he directed me to the Kingston OHIP office and Client Services manager, Clive Sheppard.
Responding to my concern over card use by minors, Mr. Sheppard seemed confident that no child under age 16 would be permitted to use his I.D. card at will. “Under 16,” he assured me, “you’re the boss…its (the child’s) number, but you call the shots.” Citing the Freedom of Information Act as his source, Sheppard tried to convince me that only children 16-years and older could arrange surgical treatment. “Under 16, you have to have a parent sign for an operation.” By law, this is true. However, a double standard exists in the medical community. There are some surgical procedures performed on minors without parental knowledge or consent.
I related to Mr. Sheppard the story of a 15-year-old Ottawa area girl, who died of an air embolism in the fall of 1987. Presiding at the January 1988 inquest into her death was Regional Coroner Dr. Robert MacMillan, now Executive Director at OHIP’s Kingston headquarters.
At the inquest, it was revealed that the girl’s parents had not given consent for their daughter’s abortion procedure; nor were they made aware of her plans. To make matters worse, the surgeon failed to apply to the hospital’s abortion committee for permission to operate – until five hours after the girl’s time of death was recorded.
Had the young girl died during an appendectomy or plastic surgery, the physician’s violation of the Criminal Code and Freedom of Information Act would have had serious consequences. However, to date, neither the provincial Attorney General’s office, the O.M.A. the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nor the Ministry of Justice, has brought charges against the doctor’s involved.