SIX NATIONS, Ont. — 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.
“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?”
Her perspective on what seems to be a widening cultural divide received some recognition from a surprising quarter Thursday: the judge deciding whether the cancer-stricken girl should be forced back into chemotherapy.
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.
“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.
“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."
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.’ “
Laurie Hill and other Canadian Indians, National Post 62 Comments
[10/20/2014 3:09:34 AM]
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