Letters to the Editor: June 2022

On patient rights, self-diagnosis, and the high stakes of rising inflation

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Cross to Bear
A hospital is a hospital is a hospital . . . unless it’s a taxpayer-funded Catholic hospital in Canada. As Wendy Glauser reports in “Divine Intervention” (March / April), patients suffer when Catholic hospitals refuse to provide health care on religious grounds. People have a right to abortions, medical assistance in dying, and other procedures to which the church objects. As a biomedical ethics professor, I am appalled at how the church uses public funds to subvert patient rights. Here in Kingston, where the secular Kingston General Hospital has merged with the Catholic Hotel Dieu Hospital, those with HIV, including LGBTQ2+ people, have to seek specialist health care in the Catholic part—a troubling fact considering the church’s historical stances on queer rights and HIV/AIDS. No matter how fancily it is dressed up by the church, the truth is that ideology is trumping patient care.

Udo Schüklenk
Kingston, ON

Reading Glauser’s investigation into Catholic hospitals, I was reminded of December 2018, when I found myself at work in downtown Toronto, thirty-five weeks pregnant and suddenly facing potentially serious complications. My midwives urged me to go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible, but I had no idea if an ambulance would take me to the hospital that I requested or to the Catholic one nearby. Having grown up in an area of the US where reproductive rights are far from guaranteed, I knew that the religious attitude of treating women as “vessels” did not impact only those seeking contraception or abortions; I’d heard plenty of stories of people with wanted pregnancies and sudden complications experiencing mistreatment. As a queer single parent, I wanted care in a place where I knew my rights would be respected, so I asked a co-worker to drive me to a secular hospital slightly farther away. My daughter was born by emergency C-section, just hours later, in a hospital where I received excellent, compassionate care. I have no regrets about forgoing that ambulance ride so that I could be sure of avoiding a hospital with “Saint” in its name.

Sarah Owocki
Landenberg, PA

Check Yourself
The trend that Emily Baron Cadloff investigates in her story “Viral Symptoms: The Rise of Mental Health Diagnosis Videos on TikTok” is emblematic of a larger social phenomenon that I call the self-management of mental health. In recent years, self-care rhetoric has dominated social media, infecting everything from beauty-product marketing to workplace webinars. As a PhD candidate in Concordia University’s communications department, I have researched mental health communities on Instagram and found that the popularity of this kind of content stems from the need to take care of oneself in the face of scarce mental health resources. Our priority shouldn’t be to determine whether self-diagnosis videos do more harm or good but rather to address the reasons why they are so popular in the first place.

Fanny Gravel-Patry
Montreal, QC

Moral Bankruptcy
The impact of the recent spate of inflation that Amy Peng describes in “Ask an Inflation Expert” (May) is not just limited to families’ pocketbooks. The more financial strain people are under, the more desperate they can become, which creates fertile ground for extreme political movements such as the far right. In France, for example, where the inflation rate is lower than in Canada, Marine Le Pen, as a far-right presidential candidate, has used inflation to build resentment against the political class and garner support for her anti-immigrant campaign. As Canada builds its response to this unprecedented inflationary moment, policy makers should keep in mind that the stakes of inflation go beyond the financial bottom line: when the cost of living outpaces individuals’ means, they become primed to lose faith in the political system.

Ryan Shah
Toronto, ON

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on our Facebook page. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

Join our community

Jennifer Hollett I have been digging into the pages of The Walrus Summer Reading issue and remarking at all of the contributions from our former and current Fellows. It reminds me that every issue of The Walrus is a result of a culmination of efforts (including lengthy fact-checking) from the editorial team, the emerging journalists they train, and the generous supporters who make all of this happen.

Through The Walrus Editorial Fellowship Program, we have the privilege of training the next generation of professionals who are passionate about the integrity of journalism. In the Summer Reading issue, 2021 Cannonbury Fellow Connor Garel wrote a piece on Frankie Perez and the art of breaking. Tajja Isen contributed an excerpt from her first book, Some of my Best Friends. Isen, who also began her career at The Walrus as a Cannonbury Fellow, is currently Editor-in-Chief at Catapult magazine.

Our 2022 Chawkers Fellow, Mashal Butt, was instrumental in making sure we got the facts straight in our Summer Reading issue, having fact-checked six features, including Sarah Totton’s short story “The Click.” And, you can look forward to a cover story on housing affordability by our 2022 Justice Fund Writer in Residence, JS Rutgers. (Rutgers is now a climate reporter for The Narwhal.)

Donations of any amount (great or small) mean that we can keep on training future journalists in the rigorous practice of fact-checking and editing. With your support, we can continue to keep The Walrus available to readers everywhere as well as help foster the next generation of reporters, copy-editors, fact-checkers, and editors.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Hollett
Executive Director, The Walrus