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December 14, 2000
Kislev 17, 5761


Man seeking funds for son's cochlear implant


Staff Reporter


MONTREAL — All Frank Duchoeny has been seeking for his profoundly deaf nine-year-old son for the last year is a cochlear implant, which would allow him to hear.


But Quebec won't hear of it.


Despite Duchoeny's insistence that his son, Ryan, qualifies fully under established criteria, he's been refused the procedure by both Quebec City's Hotel-Dieu Hospital, the only provincial facility performing it, and by Quebec Medicare, the Régie d'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ).


According to Régie and hospital documentation sent to Duchoeny, the reasons his son can't have the surgery are has age - most cochlear implants are done during infancy - and the fact that he can "sign," meaning, use sign language.


But Duchoeny, who also has been approaching the Jewish community for support, says the implants are performed on children his son's age who can "sign," and that, in any case, according to established criteria, this ability does not justify disqualification.


The real explanation, be believes, boils down to money.


"[Health Minister Pauline] Marois is simply not willing to spend it," said Duchoeny, a computer technician who lives in Chomedey. "My child is number one to me, but too many people are being screwed by the system."


That's why Duchoeny has filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC), charging Quebec Medicare and the Hotel-Dieu wilt discriminating against his son.


Duchoeny is also trying to raise $40,000 US to have the implant performed at the NYU Medical Centre in New York, where Ryan has been deemed a suitable candidate.


The cost for the procedure would be $27,000 Canadian if performed locally. But Ontario doctors have declined to do the implant since Quebec Medicare won't cover the cost and because its regulations prohibit Duchoeny from paying for the operation himself.


Because of the lack of Quebec government funding for cochlear implants, Quebec has a waiting list of 125 families - 63 that have been accepted and another 62 waiting for evaluation - that will take up to two years to process, Duchoeny said.


Quebec performs only 40 cochlear implants a year compared to Ontario, which does several hundred, because only one surgeon in Quebec (at Hotel-Dieu) performs the surgery.


In early October, just after Ryan was refused the procedure, Duchoeny was among several parents of children needing cochlear implants who attended a press conference at the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf.


On that occasion, Liberal health critic Russ Williams denounced the government's unwillingness to set aside sufficient funds for the procedure as "unacceptable" and shortsighted.


He said that the government would in the long run save money, given the costs of rehabilitating and educating the deaf.


Williams also broached the Duchoeny case specifically in the National Assembly recently, after it was covered by a local television station.


Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec region, for its part, agreed to send a letter to Marois, asking her to review the Duchoeny dossier, regional community relations director Richard Silver told The CJN.


Duchoeny was also in contact with other Jewish community agencies and received their moral support, but there seemed little they could do to help him concretely.


The Bronfman Jewish Education Council has over recent years subsidized the cost of a "shadow" for Ryan, who articulates his signing in his classes at the Free Hebrew for Juniors School.


Duchoeny is also a founding member of Yad B'Yad, a recently formed parental group advocating for Jewish education of disabled children.


Duchoeny was aware of two other cases - both of them in the Chassidic community - in which the parents opted to go to the United States for cochlear implants rather than join the Quebec waiting list. Their children, however, were babies and were at least approved locally for the procedure.


Duchoeny is confident, however, that other Jewish community cases similar to his own must exist.


Ryan was born with "nerve deafness," a condition in which the tiny hair cells within the inner ear that line the cochlea, which converts sound waves into electrical impulses, are damaged.


A cochlear implant would allow Ryan to actually perceive sound and therefore learn to speak. But debate exists over the benefits of such implants in older children.


Ryan wants the implant, his father says, but Quebec says children should be implanted by their first year to obtain the most benefit from the procedure.


Duchoeny insists that the decision about whether any given benefit is 'sufficient to merit implantation "should rest primarily with the patient and/or the parents.”




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