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'Dying on a Wait List' ad doesn't stand up to fact checking

Staff Report • Aug 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

According to FactCheck.org, perhaps the most emotional of the health care ads seen in recent months is the one featuring Canadian Shona Holmes, who warns of the dangers of a government-run health care system. Holmes tells viewers: "I survived a brain tumor. But if I’d relied on my government, I’d be dead. … As my brain tumor got worse, my government health care system told me I had to wait six months to see a specialist. In six months, I would have died.” Holmes has told her story many times, including in testimony to Congress. She paid for surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona rather than wait several months to see specialists in Canada. But would Holmes’ condition have killed her had she not traveled to the U.S.?The Canadian Broadcasting Centre aired a story July 31 quoting a top neurosurgeon in Canada saying that the claim that she would have died is “an exaggeration.” Holmes was diagnosed with Rathke’s cleft cyst, a rare, benign cyst that forms near the pituitary gland. It’s not known to be fatal. The Mayo Clinic said that Holmes was in danger of losing her sight. But the Clinic's response about the case didn’t say anything about her being in danger of dying or only having months to live. The neurosurgeon that diagnosed Holmes, Dr. Naresh Patel, said, "We needed to remove the cyst to save her vision." FactCheck.org said Fredric Meyer, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said "RCC is a benign lesion and is not typically life-threatening." CLICK HERE for the full report and video of the ad.

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