Nell Toussaint is not well. In recent years, she has been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, uncontrolled hypertension, nephrotic syndrome, poorly controlled diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and a pulmonary embolism. She also suffers from decreased mobility, shortness of breath, and-perhaps not surprisingly, given her other ailments-anxiety. Toussaint is an indigent undocumented immigrant living in Canada who has been trying to secure medical coverage in the federal courts. In the process, she has sacrificed the medical confidentiality that most of us ordinarily enjoy.
Toussaint first came to Canada from Grenada as a visitor in 1999 and remained after the term of her visa expired. At first, she earned enough to sustain a living, but in 2006, her health began to deteriorate, and she was no longer able to work. Although she has received some medical care since then, it has been sporadic, on an emergency basis, and at great expense. When Toussaint applied for medical health coverage under Canada's Interim Medical Health Program, which covers the cost of emergency medical care for legally admitted indigents, her application was rejected. She challenged the decision in federal court on the grounds that her right to life and security of the person under the Canadian Charter had been violated and that the denial of coverage was discriminatory.