From the National Post:
For Laurie Hill, resident of Canada’s largest aboriginal community, it’s just wrong to suggest that modern medicine is the only way to treat cancer and other serious diseases.
She stands firmly behind the Six Nations neighbours who took their 11-year-old daughter with leukemia out of chemotherapy, and are treating her with traditional, but unproven, native methods and other alternative health-care instead.
“Unproven” is a bit of a euphemism. Surely it’s more a matter of having abundant reasons to think traditional methods and alternative health-care aren’t effective against leukemia.
“There’s a fear of [aboriginal remedies] or denial of it. If things can’t be quantified or qualified, to them it’s irrelevant,” said Ms. Hill, as she shopped at Ancestral Voices Healing Centre Thursday. “Who are they [doctors] to say she will make it with their treatments. Just because they have a degree, that makes them more knowledgeable?”
Well…yes, probably. On this particular subject, if they have the relevant degree, then yes, that does – other things being equal – make them more knowledgeable. It’s possible that Laurie Hill’s neighbors are equally knowledgeable thanks to self-education, but it’s not terribly likely. For one thing, few people want to go to all the trouble of getting a medical education if they’re not going to get a degree.
Also, I bet the doctors aren’t saying she will make it with their treatments; I bet they’re saying her chances of making it are much better with their treatments than without them. And who they are to say that is people who know something about the stats.
As an extraordinary court case in nearby Brantford moved toward an end, a lawyer for McMaster Children’s Hospital argued that child-welfare authorities should have used their power to require the young woman to stay in treatment. With chemo, childhood leukemia now has a survival rate in the range of 90%, and remains a likely death sentence without it, experts say.
But Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice suggested physicians essentially want to “impose our world view on First Nation culture.” The idea of a cancer treatment being judged on the basis of statistics that quantify patients’ five-year survival rate is “completely foreign” to aboriginal ways, he said.
Oh please. That’s insulting. It assumes that people can’t learn anything new.
“Even if we say there is not one child who has been cured of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by traditional methods, is that a reason to invoke child protection?” asked Justice Edward, noting that the girl’s mother believes she is doing what is best for her daughter.
Yes, yes it is. Of course it is. You know what else is? We can say there is not one child who has survived being locked in a basement with no water or food for a month, and that that is indeed a reason to invoke child protection if a child is being held in a basement with no water or food. If a child has meningitis and the parents want to pray over her instead of taking her to a hospital, that is a reason to invoke child protection. Yes.
“Are we to second guess her and say ‘You know what, we don’t care?’ … Maybe First Nations culture doesn’t require every child to be treated with chemotherapy and to survive for that culture to have value.”
The judge said the culture will still have value, so let the child die.
There is also an issue of medical consent, but the child is 11, and if her parents have been telling her the traditional “treatments” are just as good, she’s probably not in a position to make an informed decision.
Back at Six Nations, meanwhile, Ancestral Voices employee Hayley Doxtater said aboriginal remedies are becoming increasingly popular. She pointed to a cancer treatment — a collection of herbs including slippery elm and turkey rhubarb root — that she said one customer has repeatedly traveled an hour from Toronto to buy for a sick friend.
“We have people come in here who are so happy that something works,” she said. “They’ll say ‘That stuff is amazing.’ “
Ah, the one hour drive evidence that the treatment is effective.