Na­tional review urged for Indige­nous health

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

Two re­searchers who doc­u­mented un­wanted tubal lig­a­tions and “in­her­ent racism’’ ex­pe­ri­enced by Indige­nous women nav­i­gat­ing the health-care sys­tem in Saska­toon say a na­tional review is needed to de­ter­mine if other Abo­rig­i­nal women have ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar trauma.

Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and a Canada Re­search Chair at Man­i­toba’s Bran­don Univer­sity, and Dr. Ju­dith Bartlett, a physi­cian and re­searcher, re­leased a re­port last week out­lin­ing how Indige­nous women from Saska­toon and sur­round­ing ar­eas were co­erced into hav­ing their Fal­lop­ian tubes clamped or sev­ered af­ter giv­ing birth in a hospi­tal.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of the women in Saskatchewan is likely not lim­ited to the prov­ince, Boyer said, ad­ding Indige­nous Peo­ples have ex­pe­ri­enced racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion all over the coun­try, in­clud­ing in ac­cess­ing health ser­vices.

“This has just given us an op­por­tu­nity to use tubal lig­a­tion as an ex­am­ple, but I would say it is prob­a­bly hap­pen­ing in other as­pects of health care as well,’’ Boyer said in an in­ter­view, not­ing Indige­nous women who shared their sto­ries for the re­port are also seek­ing a na­tional review.

A broader review would help de­ter­mine the ex­tent of dis­crim­i­na­tion across Canada, Bartlett said. “We know in Saska­toon it has hap­pened at least within the last five years, but also go­ing well back in his­tory in terms of the women that we did in­ter­view.’’

The re­port says most of the women did not un­der­stand tubal lig­a­tions were per­ma­nent, not­ing they thought the pro­ce­dure was a form of birth con­trol that could be re­versed.

It adds most women in­ter­viewed ei­ther do not re­call giv­ing con­sent or signed be­cause they were too tired and over­whelmed to fight any longer.

The re­port also sug­gests the tubal lig­a­tions were done to help Indige­nous women man­age bur­geon­ing fam­i­lies.

“The doc­tors and nurses say, ‘It’s for your ben­e­fit,’’’ one woman told the in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “You have all th­ese chil­dren. En­joy her while you have her.’’

With one ex­cep­tion, the re­searchers found all of the women in­ter­viewed for the re­port in­di­cated a clear lack of trust in the health care sys­tem — some­thing that con­tin­ued long af­ter the pro­ce­dure.

“Most had not been back to the doc­tor or had very lit­tle health care since they had felt co­erced into ster­il­iza­tion,’’ the re­port said. “They also said they would find it very dif­fi­cult to go back to a doc­tor and refuse to go.’’

The re­port also doc­u­mented “in­her­ent racism ex­pe­ri­enced by Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in many health care set­tings.’’

“Com­ments were made that sug­gested there should be an ex­pan­sion of the review be­yond the bound­aries of the SHR (Saska­toon Health Re­gion) to in­clude all hos­pi­tals and health-care providers in Saskatchewan and in­deed in Canada,’’ the re­port said.

In re­sponse to the re­port, the Saska­toon Health Re­gion said it deeply re­grets what hap­pened and ac­knowl­edged it failed to treat the women with the re­spect, com­pas­sion and sup­port they de­serve.

It called for the ex­ter­nal review af­ter pa­tients came for­ward to the me­dia to share what they ex­pe­ri­enced.

“Th­ese are the heroes that said ‘No, it has to stop, some­body has to lis­ten to me’,’’ Boyer said. “They’re the brave ones. They’re the ones with the courage that came for­ward.’’

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