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Indigenous Canadians, allegedly subjected to non-consensual medical experiment, launch lawsuit

Members of a First Nation in Canada have initiated a lawsuit alleging they were subjected to a non-consensual secret medical experiment, which they say left them feeling “violated and humiliated.”

The class-action lawsuit, recently certified by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, once again shines the spotlight on the troubling history of Canada conducting medical experiments on Indigenous people, and the discrimination they face within the healthcare system.

The claim

According to the statement of claim, Chief Andrea Paul and 60 other members of the Pictou Landing First Nation underwent an MRI in 2017 for a medical research project overseen by the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds. However, as per The Guardian report, following the initial test, hospital staff in Halifax kept Chief Paul for a second procedure without her consent.

During this second MRI, intimate medical information about Chief Paul’s body was obtained without her knowledge or consent.

The statement describes her experience vividly: “As she lay inside the claustrophobic MRI chamber, holding her breath, and cringing from the loud banging sounds around her, the MRI scans generated data that revealed intimate medical information about her body without her knowledge or consent.”

“She had been singled out for the one reason—she was Mi’kmaq,” it alleged.

A year later, Chief Paul discovered that two radiologists, Robert Miller and Sharon Clarke, allegedly utilised the second procedure to conduct MRI elastography on the livers of Indigenous subjects, again without their consent.

The lawsuit identifies Miller and Clarke as defendants, alleging breaches of privacy, negligence, and other violations. It asserts that the actions of the radiologists exacerbate Indigenous communities’ mistrust of the healthcare system, stemming from a legacy of mistreatment and abuse.

According to the claim, in 2018, Miller met with Paul, and it was then that she was told that her MRI had been used for a broader research project titled “MRI Findings of Liver Disease in an Atlantic Canada First Nations Population” and were also shared with a radiology conference.

The results were, however, not provided to the plaintiffs or to the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds, the organisation they thought they were undertaking the medical research project for.

Compensation they are demanding

The plaintiffs, as per The Guardian, are seeking a declaration for various legal breaches and damages. They argue that the MRI procedures amount to assault and battery due to being performed without informed consent.

(With inputs from agencies)

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