Who should pay for the fools’ rescue?

There doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether or not emergency transportation should be covered by universal healthcare


Few argue with the publicly funded health care system in Canada, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to whether or not emergency transportation should be on the house.

If you find yourself in need of an extreme rescue, does it make sense for the taxpayers to foot the bill, or should the rescuee assume financing for having put themselves in a risky situation?

The level of personal accountability among risk-takers is debatable.

Suppose there are two Canadians on both sides of the argument — we’ll call them Milton and Carla.

Carla enjoys adventuring, and gets most of her fixes from the outdoors. Milton, on the other hand, prefers to spend his free time in his living room, where junk food, Netflix and video games keep him busy during his free time.

Let’s say Carla was to injure herself hours into a mountainous hike and require a helicopter lift. Carla knew the risks associated with adventuring so far from a hospital — so should her finances become crippled because the hike went awry?

If public services should charge people for emergency rescue, then perhaps emergency rescue service should instead be offered as a private practice.

If Carla manages to arrive at the hospital, she’ll receive all the necessary medical treatment — for free, no matter how risky or obtuse her injury-causing decisions were.

A hospital patient would never be asked to pick up their own medical tab in Canada, and they shouldn’t be asked to pay for the transportation, even if an unnecessary risk warranted the injury.

The decision to invoice rescue costs is made arbitrarily on a case-by-case basis. Some fire departments choose to shake victims down, while others don’t. There is no criteria to base the decision upon.

Now, given that couch potatoes rarely find themselves in need of emergency escorts out of the wild, Milton may not like the idea that his tax dollars are bailing out an outdoor enthusiast.

“Why should my taxes support a service I would probably never need?” Milton may ask.

But Carla’s tax dollars pay for Milton’s annual coronary artery bypasses, which could easily be prevented through healthier diet and exercise.

No matter how many big bags of chips Milton eats every night, there will be no invoice sent to Milton for his surgeries.

While Carla’s lifestyle may impose higher risks upon herself in the short-term, Milton’s lifestyle is pretty much the reason why there’s a doctor shortage in Canada.

Sure, Carla is more likely to need an expensive rescue to bail her out of a self-imposed pickle. But over both of their lifespans, Milton will almost definitely cost the tax pool more in medical resources than Carla will.

Of course, there are more than two ends of the spectrum, but it’s not practical for anybody to create for themselves a riskless life. If one thing isn’t killing you, it’s another. We shouldn’t discriminate against those who are in distress, regardless of the nature. Just because a wounded person isn’t conveniently en route to a hospital doesn’t mean they should be nickeled-and-dimed for their recovery.

Dan Walton is a reporter for The Valley Echo. He can be reached at dan@invermerevalleyecho.com .