Danny's Private Health Care

Rex Murphy says Danny Williams' decision to have heart surgery in the U.S. is a private matter, despite his public office.

Read the transcript of this Point of View

Danny's Private Health Care

February 4, 2010


Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland, had or is having major heart surgery in the U.S. today.


I’m sure everyone wishes him and his family the very best.


His going to the States has stirred a great volume of controversy and comment – almost as much, by informal measurement, as the prorogation of Parliament, both here and in the U.S.  Heavens, it’s even been brought up in that Shangri-La of Socratic disinterest, the Bill O’Reilly show.


Not surprising, many might say.  Danny Williams is a lightening rod of his own construction.  He’s aggressive, combative, partisan, and back home, largely without any real opposition. I wish he had more.  It would be good for him and the province. My own personal take on him, for what it’s, worth is that I admire the ferocity of his feelings for Newfoundland, while I sometimes deplore the bullying and bluster it occasionally leads to.


But I see it as more than awkward that his surgery, and his choice – perhaps on the advice of his Newfoundland doctors – of where to have it, has become the great political football that it has.  I’ve never been a fan of that wretched slogan "the personal is political", for the very obvious reason it demolishes the barrier that should, must exist between our genuine private lives and the wide-open, reckless and supercharged arena of politics.


It’s his heart, it’s his surgery, and it’s his choice.  Danny Williams, Premier or no Premier, and his family are the only ones at this point who have any real say about where he chooses to have life-crucial surgery.  Further, as most commentary admits, the actual facts upon which he made his choice, and the counsel he has received from his Newfoundland doctors, is not known to us - nor, by the way, should it.  So the river of commentary, both here and in the States, is taking place in a vacuum of fact.


A larger reason for refusing to politicize the moment, however, is a simple one: it parallels Trudeau’s "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation".  Likewise, politics should stop at the edge of the operating table. It’s his life and it’s his business.


He hasn’t, using his standing as Premier, jumped some queue, lined up an MRI by cutting off someone less connected, hasn’t displaced some other Newfoundlander waiting for surgery.  Something like that would make a genuine case for debate of condemnation.


But as things stand now, we don’t know his condition, don’t know the advice he has received: we do know he hasn’t jumped any line in the Canadian system.  So, the decent, civil course would be to wait until the operation’s done, wish him the best, wait for his recuperation, and if, then, he wants to unfold his personal circumstance and offer some thoughts on the ‘politics’ of his choice, we can all hear him out.


But for now, leave him be.  Politics, as I’ve said, should stop when the surgeon is reaching for his scalpel.


For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.