Friday, May 11, 2018

Unethical Medical Experimentation on First Nations

Thousands of indigenous people in Canada have been unwittingly subjected to medical experiments without their consent.  Experiments were carried out on reserves and in residential schools between the 1930s and 1950s. The Canadian government of a long history of “discriminatory and inadequate medical care” at Indian hospitals and sanatoriums – key components of a segregated healthcare system that operated across the country from 1945 into the early 1980s.  Ian Mosby at the University of Guelph, in 2013, documented more than a decade of nutritional experiments on indigenous peoples.

More than 150,000 aboriginal children were carted off in an attempt to forcibly assimilate them into Canadian society – were used as sites for nutritional experiments, where researchers tested out their theories about vitamins and certain foods. At times, researchers would carry out trials aimed at depriving the children of nutrients that researchers suspected were beneficial.

As the diet at the schools was known to be nutritionally deficient, the children were considered “ideal experimental subjects”, according to court documents. It cites six schools, stretching from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and links them to experiments carried out from 1948 to 1953.
“The wrong here is that nobody knew it was happening. Their families didn’t know it was happening,” said Tony Merchant, whose Merchant Law Group filed the legal class action. “So what they did on a systemic basis … they would identify a group of indigenous children in schools where they were being compulsorily held and they would not give them the same treatment,” said Merchant. “They used them as a control against experiments that they were doing in other places and they also used them to test certain kinds of foods and drugs. “Some people don’t even know that they were the subject of experiments,” he said. “In some instances we can prove that principals of the schools said, ‘Well, we need consent,’ and they said, ‘We’re not going to ask for consent.’”
 A principal in Kenora, Ontario, asked that all the residential school’s children be given iron and vitamin tablets, the researcher asked him to refrain from doing so, as it would interfere with the experiment. The school in Kenora was also used to test an experimental drug on children with ear problems, leaving nine children with significant hearing loss. In other instances, researchers withheld dental treatment from children, worried that healthier teeth and gums would skew their results. Those who did not cooperate were subject to physical abuse.
The experiments also extended to reserves. At times children were used to study the effectiveness of drugs and given varying dosages of treatments in order to compare their effectiveness on illnesses ranging from amoebic dysentery to tuberculosis. In Saskatchewan, children living on reserves were used to test the effectiveness of a new tuberculosis vaccine. At a reserve in northern Manitoba, researchers visiting in the 1940s suspected malnutrition was behind several cases of blindness as well as an outbreak of tuberculosis. In order to test their theory, they gave nutritional supplements to 125 people. The others on the 300-person reserve were used as a control group, left to fend off malnutrition amid a collapsing fur trade and sharp limits on government aid. Years later, researchers noted they had seen an improvement in health among those given the supplements.

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