The following is a response to the thread “A tale of two unnecessarily doomed aboriginal girls with leukemia‘ on Respectful Insolence. I have posted it here due to its length. If you wish to respond, please do so on RI. This post is incomplete. I post it now to address issues raised in the thread about my intent, and about Orac’s positions and character, as I feel these should not wait until I can complete the post with the full material about the cases of Makayla Sault and J. J.
ORAC, THE GOOD
Orac is not a liar. He is an honorable man. He has dedicated his life to doing his best to save people from a horrible disease. His hospital work alone would drain the energies of most human beings. Somehow Orac finds the time and energy to be a outspoken champion for the sick and vulnerable, and an enemy of the scum who prey on them on two well read blogs. Further, he is working with other scientists and doctors to create an organization – SfSBM – that hopefully can have real policy effect in cutting back on quackery. SfSBM has targeted its first political effort as opposing the licensing of naturopaths as primary care providers in Maryland. IMHO, naturopathy is by far the most dangerous form of quackery to the broad public health exactly because it has a possibility to acquire PCP status. The SfSBM initiative could not be more well chosen, and I am willing to do whatever I can to support it. I live in a trailer park on a fixed income. I don’t have money. I do (quite obviously) have time.
In terms of stopping Brian Clement, perhaps someone would argue Orac could do a bit more. I will not. It is absurd to fault him. Perhaps we all could do a bit more, eh?. Orac IS doing more than most of us. I’m with Orac. Don’t even think of throwing stones at him until you can show you’ve done more to stop Clement than he has. (Comment not just to the Col., but to all.) A useful suggestion is not a stone. If there’s been one in the thread, I’ve missed it (not sarcasm, I haven’t re-read all the posts).
I disagree with Orac fairly often. Mostly these disagreements are about analysis, strategy, broader philosophical issues. Also, we seem to have very different thought processes. Orac appears not to like my web persona. He (a web persona, also) is sometimes rude and insulting to ‘sadmar’. He sometimes mis-characterizes what I have written. Or he simply fails to ‘get it.’ I sometimes write jagged replies when this happens. I am not angry at Orac when I write them. I am expressing my ideas theatrically. Before I went into media studies, I was trained as an actor, director, and playwright. I have done guerrilla theater satire at political rallies, and worked on multi-media projects with some modestly well-known professional comedians. I am not literal minded. I exaggerate. I perform.
This is Orac’s blog. He can ban me. He doesn’t. He lets me post. I can leave if I want to. I don’t. I’d guess at least 95% of the time, Orac and I want the same things in terms of changes in the real world regarding medicine and pseudo-science. We have our arguments about how best to achieve those goals. That is all. If anyone finds that not a legitimate topic for discussion here, feel free to lobby Orac to urge a change in policy. He makes the rule, here. If he decides to rule that out, so be it.
THE COURT DECISION
I have written before, and I repeat: while understandable in some respects under the specifics of the case and under the applicable law, Judge Edward Gethin’s ruling sets a disastrous precedent that must be overturned by court appeal or (preferably) legislative action. If the Canadian Parliament is sitting on their hands now, that is moral bankruptcy.
Orac’s question to Colonel Tom is spot on. Makayla Sault is dead. It is EVERYONE’s responsibility to attempt to spare J. J. from the same fate. It is EVERYONE’s responsibility to keep vctims away from Brain Clement. It is especially incumbent on the Six Nations and New Credit communities to prevent Clement from preying on their children. Like Orac, I would hate to learn that no old blood warriors are stepping up for J. J. and all the future possible Makaylas.
I will go further, I believe every warrior of every blood age should not only be standing between Clement and their communities, I believe THEY should tell J. J.’s Mom that if she doesn’t get that kid’s butt in chemo right now, she out of the band and off the rez. They want autonomy. They deserve autonomy. So they should act like it, and do something autonomous to save the dying kid from her loony-tunes Mother who is lying through her teeth about wheatgrass being Native medicine.
Additionally, it the responsibility of the First Nations communities in Canada and the Native American communities in the U.S. within shouting distance of Ontario to put pressure on the Six Nations to find a way, any way, to get J. J. back into the hospital. (I will exempt from this responsibility the deeply impoverished Ojibwe and Lakota of Northern Minnesota and the Dakotas, as they have more than enough problems of their won to deal with).
And it is the responsibility of every First Nations communities in Canada to come together and work for a political solution that can prevent any future Makaylas or J.J.s while still protecting their children from forced apprehension and relocation by Canadian authorities. Yes, indigenous peoples engage in politics. At the moment, their politics stink. The answer is not for them to abdicate to Canada. The answer is for them to take the political bull by the horns and do the right thing for their own people.
Whenever I hear some of these arguments I seriously start to wonder whether the real subtext behind this is that if the price for asserting the independence of the First Nations against the Canadian government in this issue is unnecessary and preventable deaths of two aboriginal girls at the hands of a white quack from Florida who isn’t even using traditional aboriginal medicine, then that’s a price the girls’ elders are willing to pay.
I shall assume Orac meant to include in “willing” ‘the girls elders are justified in paying’. I can only speak to my own subtext. The life of Makayla Sault was not a price. She was a human being, not a commodity. No one had justification to sacrifice her life for any cause. Adult human beings having chosen to pay the price of their lives for independence and autonomy for centuries, and they will continue to do so. Makayla Sault was 11. That is not a choice 11 year olds get to make for themselves, and no one else gets to make for them.
To any extent that Makayla life was used as a pawn in a political chess match, that would be abhorent beyond words. I have searched the web for every document I can find about this case, and on the basis of that information, I have concluded that the tribal politics of the First Nations bands were not immediate highly significant factors in Makayla’s death. J.J.’s case is another matter. My concerns about the role of the tribes are questions of fact. Of evidence.
Here in the U.S. we have had cases where parents have been allowed to let their minor children die by refusing to have them undergo proper medical treatment. If Makayla had been an American citizen and not a member of any recognized tribe, her parent’s fundamentalist beliefs would have doomed her in many jurisdictions. Here Jerry Coyne has it absolutely right IMHO:
The problem exists in the U.S. as well. According to the National District Attorney Association, 38 of our 50 states have religious exemptions for child abuse, and five have exemptions for manslaughter or murder. If you kill or injure your child by withholding medical care on religious grounds, it’s difficult to prosecute you. And even when prosecutions of religious parents occur, judges and juries are reluctant to convict, or they impose only light sentences. This is part of the unconscionable and unwarranted respect for faith that permeates our nation, and it’s caused the death of thousands of children.
If anyone can provide me with additional factual material to clearly establish that something beyond this was at work in Makayla’s death, I shall reconsider my position.
I shall elaborate on the factual issues, and add my comments on Andrew Koster of the Brant CAS, America’s role in this tragedy, and whatever else comes up in a subsequent post.