By DAVID LAZARUS
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.
explanation, be believes, boils down to money.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.”