Tragic Case of "Rights"
A recent court decision in Brampton, Ontario means that an 11 year old First Nations Mohawk girl will likely die a very preventable death. The argument is that First Nations people have the right to use their "traditional medicines" to treat illnesses and diseases, even if that means eschewing actual, proven medicine in the face of a deadly condition.
This is utter nonsense. The government should step in to protect the life of the afflicted girl regardless of the justifications Justice Gethin Edward talks about. To quote from the article:
Evidence showed the mother from Six Nations reserve is “deeply committed to her longhouse beliefs and her belief that traditional medicines work,...This is not an eleventh-hour epiphany employed to take her daughter out of the rigours of chemotherapy,...Rather it is a decision made by a mother, on behalf of a daughter she truly loves, steeped in a practice that has been rooted in their culture from its beginnings.”If I may take this quote apart a bit, what the judge doesn't care about is that it really doesn't matter at all how evidence shows that the mother is committed to her beliefs that traditional medicines work. It matters if they actually work. What if my daughter gets acute lymphoblastic leukemia and I am committed to the belief that making her dust the house and eat nothing but Quaker instant oatmeal (only the maple brown sugar type) and water will cure the disease? Will I get applause from an audience in a court room for obtaining the right to "treat" my daughter with the aforementioned protocol?
The answer is "no".
Just because an idea is tenacious doesn't mean that it's worthy, if I may quote Tim Minchin. We must allow adults to seek out whatever treatment or "treatment" they want as part of their freedom of choice, expression, and religion, but we need to make sure that children are given the best possible path to make it to adulthood so they can receive those freedoms.
Chief Ava Hill was happy about the ruling saying, "This is monumental for our people right across the country, and we’re going to get the news out right away,...We were the first people here, we looked after ourselves, we had our traditional medicines. We looked after your ancestors when they arrived here, and what medicines do you think we used?”" Just to be clear, "looking after" is in no way the same as, "curing" or "increasing lifespan". You can "look after" a person and if they're sufficiently sick, they'll die. As I've said before, adding any modifier before the word "medicine" such as "traditional", "alternative" or "naturopathic" will, in all likelihood, decrease its efficacy substantially.
This family and the family of another First Nations 11 year old girl, Makayla Sault, have also travelled to a Florida clinic that claims to be able to treat cancer but is astoundingly full of woo and nonsense. This "clinic" is the definition of the kind of mentality from which we as a hopefully-advancing-species have to save our young people. It is abysmal and no one under 21 should be allowed on the grounds of this quackery farm.
I truly hope that both the girl in the court decision and Makayla Sault can go into spontaneous remission and somehow, against all odds, recover. My fear is that they will both have recurrences, receive "traditional" medicine, and die soon afterwards. Will the media cover those stories as follow-up? Will anyone listen then? The only certainty in these terrible situations is that "traditional" medicines will sadly be touted as valid for a long time to come.