A coroner said Tuesday that prejudice contributed to the death of an Indigenous woman who filmed herself being abused by hospital staff.
MONTREAL — It was a case that shook Canada: Last year a 37-year-old Indigenous mother of seven died in a Quebec hospital after a nurse taunted her, “You’re stupid as hell,” It’s only good to have sex, and “the dead are good.”
On Tuesday, a coroner said the death of the woman, Joyce Aquan, could have been prevented and that racism and prejudice had played a part in her treatment. Because of prejudice, she said, medical staff had mistakenly assumed that Ms. Ichakan was a drug addict.
The coroner, Gehen Kamel, also called on the Quebec government to recognize “systemic racism” in the health care system and across the province.
Ms Kamel was released a report Last week, which investigated the medical circumstances of Ms Ichquan’s death and detailed several loopholes in her care. The report found evidence to suggest that Ms Ichakan died of pulmonary edema, an excess of fluid in the lungs.
If Ms. Ichakan were a white woman, she would still be alive today, Ms. Kamel said at a news conference on Tuesday, explaining her findings. “It was a death that could have been prevented,” she told reporters.
She said the evidence did not suggest that Ms. Ichakan was experiencing withdrawal from drug use.
Ms Ichaquan, who was suffering from heart problems, died on September 28, 2020 after capturing the taunts of medical staff in a Facebook Live broadcast that went viral across Canada, sparking widespread anger. The video has become a powerful global symbol that Canada’s discredited health care system is failing indigenous peoples.
Retired Quebec Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens had already concluded in a 2019 report that “cultural barriers” and prejudice in the health care system in Quebec were having “serious consequences” for indigenous peoples. He details a range of problems, including a “delayed diagnosis” and the failure of medical staff to order necessary exams or medication.
After the broadcast of Ms. Ichakan’s video, the hospital fired the nurse and an orderly. But the government of Quebec Premier François Legault has not acknowledged that systemic racism exists in the province.
It has also refused to adopt “Joyce’s Principles”, a set of policies aimed at providing fair access to health services for Indigenous peoples, as the document outlining the policies refers to “systemic racism”.
Ms Kamel said that from the moment Ms Ichquan arrived at Joliet Hospital in Quebec, medical staff assumed she was suffering a drug withdrawal and treated her with contempt.
Ms Ichquan had been “marked and labeled as a drug addict,” she told reporters, and the care she received was “tainted with prejudice”.
“There were some silent witnesses. Some did not act,” Ms Kamel said. He said: “In this case we have evidence that the system failed.”
In her report, Ms Kamel called on the Quebec government to recognize systemic racism and take steps to end it.
“We have seen an unacceptable death and we must make sure it was not in vain and that we learn from this tragedy as a society,” she said. wrote in his report. “It is therefore unacceptable that broad sections of society deny a reality that is so well documented.”