Coroner finds racism played a role in Indigenous woman's death

MONTREAL – It’s a case that rocked Canada: A 37-year-old Indigenous mother died in a Quebec hospital last year after a nurse taunted her...


MONTREAL – It’s a case that rocked Canada: A 37-year-old Indigenous mother died in a Quebec hospital last year after a nurse taunted her: “Better to die.”

On Tuesday, a coroner said the woman’s death, Joyce Echaquan, could have been avoided and that racism and prejudice had played a role in his treatment. Due to bias, she said, medical staff mistakenly assumed Ms. Echaquan was suffering from drug withdrawal.

Coroner Géhane Kamel also called on the Quebec government to recognize “systemic racism” in the health care system and across the province.

Mrs. Kamel had released a report last week, which reviewed the medical circumstances of Ms Echaquan’s death and detailed a series of gaps in her care. Evidence suggested Ms Echaquan died of pulmonary edema, excess fluid in the lungs, according to the report.

If Ms Echaquan were a white woman, she would still be alive today, Ms Kamel said at a press conference on Tuesday explaining her findings. “It was a death that could have been avoided,” she told reporters.

The evidence, she added, did not show Ms Echaquan was suffering from drug withdrawal.

Ms Echaquan, who suffered from heart problems, died on September 28, 2020, after capturing taunts from medical staff in a live Facebook show that went viral across Canada, sparking widespread anger. The video has become a powerful global symbol showing that Canada’s much-vaunted healthcare system betrays Indigenous peoples.

The retired judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, Jacques Viens, had already concluded in a 2019 report that “cultural barriers” and prejudices in the health system in Quebec had “disastrous consequences” for indigenous peoples. He detailed many issues, including “delayed diagnoses” and the inability of medical staff to order necessary tests or medications.

Following the broadcast of Ms. Echaquan’s video, the hospital fired the nurse and a nurse. But the government of Quebec Premier François Legault has not recognized the existence of systemic racism in the province.

He also refused to adopt the “Joyce Principle”, a set of policies aimed at providing equitable access to health services for indigenous peoples, because the document outlining the policies refers to “systemic racism”.

As soon as Ms Echaquan arrived at Joliette hospital in Quebec, medical staff assumed she was suffering from drug withdrawal and treated her with contempt, Ms Kamel said.

Ms Echaquan was “infantilized and labeled as a drug addict,” she told reporters, and the treatment she received was “tainted with bias”.

“Some were silent witnesses. Some just haven’t acted, ”Ms. Kamel said. She added, “In this case, we have proof that the system has failed. “

In her report, Ms. Kamel called on the Quebec government to recognize systemic racism and take action to eliminate it.

“We have witnessed an unacceptable death and we must ensure that it is not in vain and that we learn from this tragedy as a society,” she said. written in his report. “It is therefore unacceptable that large sections of society deny such a well-documented reality. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Coroner finds racism played a role in Indigenous woman's death
Coroner finds racism played a role in Indigenous woman's death
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