|By LaurMG. (Own work.) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons|
The state is no longer in the business of defending gravely ill First Nations children from hucksters who would sell them ridiculous woo cures. First Nations parents can now forgo real medical treatment for their children and go off to massage establishments in Florida to be treated by a bogus 'naturopathic doctors' -- who are neither even licensed naturopaths nor doctors... nor even First Nations traditional healers! These believe vitamin C and raw food can cure people of cancer. What have we come to here?
The one take home point here is that this decision is not in the best interest of the child.
In fact, the first child to have stopped chemo, Makayla Sault, has become gravely ill again.
On Nov. 6, Christian music star Adam Crabb posted on Facebook and Twitter that Sault was critically ill. Crabb posted an update on Nov. 8 that was signed by her father, Kenny Sault.Her father insists the infection is due to the chemo. The sad thing is, this could be true, but quitting chemo and going on a boat cruise and being out and about with compromised immune system is not at all standard medical protocol. It seems that no matter what happens, it will never be the leukemia though, always the chemo.
"As many of you know Makayla suffered a major infection and had to be hospitalized (Nov 5)," read the post.
"At that point because of her weakened immune system from chemo (that she stopped 8 months ago) the doctors gave her 24 hours. She is home (Nov. 8) and is asking for the body of Christ to stand in the gap in prayer for her against this infection."
He went on to say the Nov. 9 service at the fellowship centre was being dedicated to his daughter.
"We are asking all churches around the globe to dedicate a time to prayer in their service," he wrote. "We are believing together for divine miracles to take place … Nothing is impossible. She thanks everyone for their outpouring of love."
I find myself rather nauseous thinking too much about this, so I thought I would sprinkle a random sampling of reaction from people who are evidently more rational than the judge in this case.
In A native ‘right’ to refuse life-saving medicine? It does natives no favours, the Globe and Mail writes:
Aboriginal rights are an elemental part of Canadian law. They are also a complicated part, a fact never made more clear than last week when an Ontario judge ruled that an innocent aboriginal girl must be allowed to die in the defence of those rights.In the Winnipeg Free Press, Prof. Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics writes:
It is hard to believe that anyone could be so determined to protect a right that they cannot see the agony J.J. will endure. Without chemotherapy, a young girl’s life is going to be ended by an entirely treatable medical condition. Would a parent in 16th-century Canada whose child was dying from a painful ailment have turned down the opportunity to save her, had it existed?
The decision pits the protection of First Nations' rights against a child's right to timely medical intervention, effectively creating two standards of health care for children.In an excellent article, Doctors say science doesn't back First Nations girls' treatment, Tom Blackwell exposes this for what it is -- little girls falling prey to a sham, quackery, snakeoil, a charlatan.
"The first implication is that Canadian children in need of care and protection will be protected by the courts, except when they are First Nations children," Schafer said.
"This decision establishes the right of First Nations children to die unnecessarily."
The late founder of a Florida alternative health clinic that treated two cancer-stricken Canadian aboriginal girls built her program on the notion that wheat grass holds remarkable healing properties, born out partly by a Bible story and the eating habits of dogs and cats.Rosie DiManno writes in the Toronto Star -- emphasis mine.
Hippocrates Health Institute still extols the virtues of the grass - and at least twice in the past six months its director promoted such theories at a southern Ontario First Nations community.
Sham-science watchdogs are calling the clinic's treatments essentially useless, but its message seemed to resonate at the Six Nations reserve and a neighbouring Mohawk community.
Aboriginal culture, not a youngster’s very life and death dilemma, has triumphed. Traditional healing can be substituted for the scientific medical intervention that has a 90 to 95 per cent chance of curing a gravely ill little girl.
It was indeed a precedent-setting decision from the bench. I will be blunt: First Nations parents can now kill their kids — because that is the inevitable consequence — on the grounds of aboriginal sovereignty, the historical exceptionalism which invests aboriginal peoples with special legal and constitutional status.
That’s what the jam-packed courtroom was cheering Friday, showing how dismally skewed priorities have become in this sad case where everybody clearly has striven to do the right thing for a cancer-stricken 11-year-old — and got it catastrophically wrong.
How this finding, delivered by Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward, can be reconciled with an existing ruling rendered years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada — that state intervention is a legitimate restriction on religious freedom when a minor’s life is at stake, a decision that arose over the refusal of Jehovah’s Witness parents to permit blood transfusion for their severely anemic one-year-old daughter — remains to be seen. But an appeal would take time, even if expedited, and that’s what the little girl hasn’t got, time.
She goes on to write that group rights are the paramount issue; not a child’s life that hangs in the balance. She is cultural collateral. This is the ultimate conflict here. It would appear that the court has decided to not intervene to save the lives of these children for political and historical reasons -- by honouring treaties and the autonomy of these nations, it is allowing them to effectively let their children get sick and, sadly, die.
DiManno, like many of the other writers, goes on to point out that both mothers packed up and went to a resort-style massage centre -- a quacky clinic in Florida which seems to pack a whole lot of woo and very little -- if any! -- authentic First Nations healing!
This last frustrating observation is made crystal clear by Wayne K. Spear in the Huffington Post. Spear, himself a Mohawk, writes an article on the very thought that re-occurs to me every time I think about these cases: Why Does the Fight For Aboriginal Rights Equal a Rejection of Science? He drills down to the very tragic core of this problem an is concise and excellent.
A growing number of people are turning away from, and against, science and modernity, and for a number of causes -- environmentalism, mistrust of corporations, dislike of secularism, traditionalism, and in extreme cases religious fundamentalism. Alternative medicine has been a growth industry for years, and there's no reason to expect a reversal of this trend. Get ready for more parents who prefer crystal to chemotherapy, vitamins to vaccines, and prayer to Prednisone.
That last one has received less-than-due attention in the media. When the mother of Makayla Sault told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that she had "initially went against [her] beliefs and logic and started chemotherapy at the McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton Ontario," she mentioned "ancient Indigenous knowledge" and the Hippocrates Health Institute of West Palm Beach, Florida. But neither she nor her pastor husband, nor her supporters, nor the media (to my knowledge, at least) have mentioned the one belief that perhaps most makes sense of it all: the belief and active prominence of the parents in a fundamentalist Christian sect that teaches the merits of faith healing.
In previous posts about Makayla, I've pointed out that her parents are both evangelicals and that Makayla herself believes that Jesus told her to leave the chemo and that she is cured. However, popular media has either ignored this or downplayed it. There is a whole lot of faith healing in there, of underlying evangelical Christianity. Just re-read Makayla's father's prayer request above -- released by a Christian music star!
Spear goes on.
Now imagine that this case had been wrapped in the cause of faith healing, as earlier this year the Schaibles of Pennsylvania had attempted to ennoble the death of their eight-month-old son -- the second such death of a child in their family, both from easily preventable and treatable cases of pneumonia. No, that wouldn't have done. The cause of indigenous rights, in contrast, doubtless presented itself as a more playable move. And since I'm a Mohawk myself, I've some flint in that game and must object.
Spear wraps up by suggesting that this isn't even a win for aboriginal culture in Canada. New Age treatment at a Florida massage therapy centre all based on a Christian Jesus-vision just might not be representative of their culture.
I'm embarrassed by the thought that this campaign is only promoting the idea that Indians are credulous, as well as unclear on the difference between Onkwehonwe-Neha and New-agism. I suppose the right to say no to medical science is indeed a right, but it seems like a shabby right to me in an era when science-based medicine is making considerable advances.
This campaign -- a mixture of Christianity, alternative medicines, New Age dabbling, and traditional herbs -- strikes me as an abuse of cultural integrity, rather than its defence. Unfortunately I've arrived too late: Justice Gethin Edward has already given the business a seal of approval.
In the end, it appears that nobody really wins here -- except, perhaps, the charlatan herbal treatment centre in Florida.
It's a terrible tragedy and I don't see it getting any better from this point forward.