Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More on Shona Holmes

Shona Holmes has received notoriety in recent days for doing a commercial for an American lobby group in which she claims that she had a brain tumour that threatened her life, that her treatment was delayed in Ontario, and that she had to pay for her own treatment:
"I am a Canadian citizen, and as my brain tumour [sic] got worse, my government health-care system told me I had to wait six months to see a specialist," Holmes says in the commercial. "In six months I would have died."
She is suing the Ontario government for her costs.

Her story, however, is quickly falling apart. She did not have a tumour, but a cyst, as her testimonial at the Mayo clinic shows (link; archive). And, it seems, it was her vision that was threatened, not her life.

So what's the deal? Was Ms. Holmes confused about her own diagnosis and prognosis? This is, I'm afraid, not likely.

Creative Revolution points out that Shona Holme's lawsuit is being funded by the Canadian Constitution Federation, a political advocacy group that funds right-wing legal challenges (they were profiled in the Toronto Star). The CCF's wikipedia article has recently been scrubbed, but if you know the right people you can see both the original article and all of the edits that produced it. Here is what was added on 13 June 2008 by user jamesmclean23:

Shona Holmes

Who is jamesmclean23? Creative Revolution points out that there is a James Mclean who is co-author of a CCF study, and in the June 2008 CCF newsletter (pdf), a James McLean is described as a CCF staff researcher, at exactly the time the above edits were made to wikipedia article.

The point? A staff-member of the group funding Shona Holmes' lawsuit against the province of Ontario wrote of Holmes' prognosis thus (my emphasis in red):
Shona Holmes was told she would lose her vision forever, unless surgeons immediately removed her growing brain tumour. But Ontario's government monopoly health care system told Shona whe would have to wait for months just to see specialists and obtain treatment. Not willing to risk permanent blindness, Shona obtained surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Within ten days, her vision was completely restored.
Given that the only way Mr. McLean would know what Shona Holmes was told was from Ms. Holmes herself, we have here a serious discrepancy, since this is not the story that Holmes told Americans, where she claimed to be facing death, not blindness.