Pictou Landing First Nation members suing researchers for ‘secret’ experiment says claim

61 members of the Mi’kmaw nation were exposed to a test without their consent documents say.   

Members of a proposed class-action lawsuit against two researchers in Nova Scotia for conducting a “secret” experiment on them are now waiting for a judge’s decision on whether the case can move forward.

In an amended statement of claim filed June 25, 2021, 61 members of Pictou Landing First Nation, including Chief Andrea Paul who is the lead plaintiff in the document, say that Dr. Robert Miller and Dr. Sharon Clarke conducted an experiment without their consent.

According to the claim, in March 2017, Paul agreed to be part of a study by the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM).

The test involved an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). But when the test was over, Paul noticed that the staff at the hospital in Halifax didn’t remove her from the MRI tube right away.

“Instead, she was detained there longer while additional scans of her body were taken as part of a second, secret and separate study,” the claim says.

The study involved “MRI elastography of the liver of Indigenous subject,” and was called the “Indigenous Study,” according to the court documents.

Paul and the other members of the potential class-action say they were unaware of the study was taking place.

“The data from the MRI scans the CAHHM Study were sent to the principle researchers of the CAHHM Study while data from the MRI scans for the Indigenous Study were withheld from the CAHHM researchers and provided to the Defendants Miller and Clarke only,” says the claim.

Read the Statement of Claim: 

Download (PDF, 9.6MB)

According to the claim, Clarke is a physician and assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Division of Cardiology at Dalhousie Univerity and works in the radiology department at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax.

Miller is also a physician and professor in the same department and is a radiologist who also works at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

The claim says Paul didn’t find out that she was involved in a different study until June 21, 2018, and that it involved an MRI that she hadn’t consented to.

The document also says, “By that time Miller and Clarke had presented the results of the Indigenous Study to a group of radiologists at a conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia and had written an unpublished research paper entitled ‘MRI Findings of Liver Disease in an Atlantic Canada First Nation Population.'”

The statement of claim says on July 16, 2018, the researchers met with the people involved to fill them in on the experiment.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

A statement of defence has not been filed as of this posting.

According to the amended statement of claim, that takes Dalhousie University and the hospital from the lawsuit, Paul says “… the conduct described above broke the standard of care expected of a person in similar circumstances to the Defendants and constitutes negligence as creating an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm to the Plaintiff and the Class Members.”

The claim lays out the history of experiments done on First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples since colonization including the “effects of starvation on Indigenous children and forced sterilization of Indigenous women.”

Paul says in the claim that this experiment is no different.

“Indigenous people have been reluctant to participate in health research and to seek treatment from non-Indigenous doctors, health centres and hospitals. There is an historically and evidentiary based mistrust of the health care system,” the claim says.

“The participants were targeted because they were Indigenous. Miller and Clarke were interested in advancing their careers and esteem as researchers and not the wellbeing of the Plaintiff, the Class Members or Indigenous people.

“This type of behavior that is, and is perceived to be, motivated by racism and discrimination based on race.”

The class-members are suing based on mental suffering, regret, paranoia, humiliation and embarrassment among others.

The class-members are also seeking a “declaration” that Miller and Clarke “breached their fiduciary duties, committed breach of contract.”

APTN News reached out Clarke and Miller through their lawyer Harry Thurlow for comment.

He said they were not commenting at this time.

The case will be before the courts again in October 2022.

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