Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do No Harm

"To assist people in taking responsibility for their lives and to help them internalize and actualize an existence free from premature aging, disease and needless pain."
The Hippocrates Health Institute website, West Palm Beach Florida

"We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care."
"I [teach people to] heal themselves."
Hippocrates Health Institute director

"I am writing this letter to tell you that this chemo that I am on is killing my body and I cannot take it anymore. I have asked my mom and dad to take me off the treatment because I don't want to go this way anymore."
"I know that what I want can kill me but I don't want to die in a hospital on chemo, weak and sick. I wish that the doctors would listen to me because I live in this body and they don't."
"I asked him [Jesus who visited her during her hospital stay] 'Can you heal me?' and he said, 'You are already healed.' He told me, 'Do not be afraid. You are my child.'"
"I just want everybody to know that I'm alive and well and that I'm healed."
"Jesus told me that I am healed, so it doesn't matter what anybody says."
Makayla Sault, 11-year-old Ojibwe girl
YouTube video showing 11 year old Makayla Sault read her letter explaining why she has asked her parents to take her off chemotherapy and pursue traditional medicines instead.
YouTube / Two Row Times    YouTube video showing 11 year old Makayla Sault read her letter explaining why she has asked her parents to take her off chemotherapy and pursue traditional medicines instead.
"I cannot find that [she] is a child in need of protection when her substitute decision-maker has chosen to exercise her constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional [First Nations] medicine."
Ontario Court Judge Gethin Edward [himself of aboriginal descent]

"Makayla was on her way to wellness, bravely fighting toward holistic well-being after the harsh side effects that twelve weeks of chemotherapy inflicted on her body."
"Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke."
"We continue to support Makayla's choice to leave chemotherapy. At this time we request privacy from the media while we mourn this tragic loss."
Makayla's evangelical Christian family from the New Credit First Nation in southwestern Ontario

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but hers was a more complicated type of childhood leukemia, named Philadelphia chromosome positive, the young girl from the New Credit First Nation close to Brantford, Ontario, underwent an initial round of chemotherapy. The cure rate for the type of cancer she had is estimated between 80 and 90%, not perfect by any means, but fairly good odds, had she remained on the conventional treatment she was receiving at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

But hers are First Nations parents, and also as it happens, pastors at the small church on New Credit Reserve. Makayla, by all accounts, was involved in church activities, and she was a firm believer in what her parents preached. They preached their version of Christianity, but they also believed in aboriginal culture, inclusive of native methods of traditional healing. Since Makayla was distressed at how she felt from chemotherapy, she resolved to have it stopped and she was supported by her mother insisting she would receive traditional treatment instead.

That native treatment is called "Ongwehowe Onongwatri yo:". That treatment, about which not much is known, even at the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health, would remove the disease that was in the process of ravaging her body; that, and her firm belief in Jesus. On the other hand, the reserve community had the privilege of two information sessions through visits from the Florida "health" facility that was officially licensed as a massage parlour, and they convincingly informed the reserve residents that they had the power to cure dread diseases.

So, at a charge of $18,000, Makayla had several visits to the Florida Hippocrates Health Institute. Oncologists at McMaster did their utmost to persuade  the Brant Family and Children's Services to take action to get the child back into treatment. Instead Brant Family and Children's Services sided with the child's family's decision, even while the doctors at McMaster Children's Hospital pledged they had no objection to Makayla receiving traditional medicines, while also being under professional medical care at the hospital; one mode of treatment would not eliminate the other.

There is a social reluctance to interfere with aboriginal constitutional rights, to run afoul of First Nations' insistence on their cultural traditions. Despite that parents such as Makayla's make injurious decisions on behalf of their dependent children, child-welfare agencies are loathe to interject 'white man's' values, as though to claim science is superior to aboriginal legend is a road too far to take, even when a child's life is at stake.

So Makayla, no longer receiving chemotherapy, but placed on special diets by the Florida "health" facility, and undergoing traditional aboriginal therapies, convinced she had been cured, wrote an update for all concerned that her life was no longer in danger. A month later she was gravely ill, her cancer had galloped back into active mode and not long afterward -- this past Monday -- she died. Of a stroke her parents claimed resulted from the chemotherapy she had taken under duress.

Because of the twelve weeks of chemotherapy treatment she suffered "irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke", read the statement from her grieving parents. Who, should they ever have admitted that they had been in error in removing her from the life-saving therapy that is conventionally used successfully with medical cases such as their daughter's would be tantamount to resigning themselves to the reality that their actions resulted in her death.

 In the interests of understanding native culture, does a photograph such as the one above reflect said traditions and culture? Objectifying and sexualizing a child of ten or eleven, with make-up, an adult-patterned evening dress, a suggestive pose...? What, exactly are the values being purveyed here? They reflect in actual fact, an all-too-common celebrity-obsessed culture of the 'white man' whom aboriginals despise, treating children like adult women who pose for photographs portraying them as classic trophies.

Makayla Sault has died. There is another little girl who was diagnosed a few months after Makayla had been. This little girl is known only as J.J. the same age as Makayla but from the Six Nations reserve. With the same acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis. And whose parents also attempted to halt conventional treatment for her dread malady. In her case Judge Edward ruled that J.J. "lacked capacity to make such a life-and-death decision".

But in her case as well, she was taken by her mother to be treated at the Hippocrates Health Institute. To receive vital treatment, aboriginal-style. The Greek father of medicine who coined the phrase "do no harm" would turn over in his grave to know that his name and his dedication to human health has been so abused.

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