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Monday, May 24, 2004

3 Native families sent fetus' via mail

In Ontario Canada, 3 different families have reported that they were sent the remains of miscarried fetus' through the mail.

The first report came from a member of community of North Caribou Lake. Here is an excerpt from the CBC article
"The mother went hysterical after she found out the unborn child came through the mail."

Kenequanash is calling for a full police investigation and a coroner's inquest into the incident. The family, who live in North Caribou Lake, a remote community hundreds of kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay has also retained a lawyer.

In March, the woman was medevaced to Sioux Lookout hospital, said Kimberly Whetung a senior policy adviser with the Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 134 First Nations across Ontario.

The woman had completed her first trimester but miscarried at the hospital. Because the hospital did not have a pathologist on staff, the fetus was sent to Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Whetung said.
The family requested the fetus be returned to the community. The mother was told that the remains would be taken from the hospital to a funeral home.

Instead, the fetus was sent by Purolator in a cardboard box to the wrong address – a post office in Pickle Lake, a community about 300 kilometres from North Caribou Lake. It was labelled "diagnostic specimen" and "room temperature." full article

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman ordered an investigation after a second family,from the Fort Hope First Nation, revealed that their daughter had received her miscarried fetus in the mail. The hospital put the blame on a new employee.

A third family has come forward, stating that they have also received their miscarried fetus through the mail system. Here is another excerpt from the latest article

Amid claims that a third aboriginal family had been mailed the remains of a miscarried fetus, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said yesterday he had ordered an investigation into how human tissue is handled.

Smitherman, who said he was "angered and deeply concerned," asked the head of Toronto's University Health Network, Tom Closson, to investigate the allegations against the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

"This just does not mesh with anyone's thinking of what's appropriate in the circumstances," Smitherman said.

"So I want some advice from someone I deeply respect."

Yesterday, an aboriginal family from northern Ontario, this one from the remote Poplar Hill First Nation, became the third this week to say it had received mailed fetal remains.

Charles Fox, Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, said the family would provide details next week but that the remains arrived two weeks ago and were buried after a funeral.

The Thunder Bay hospital was investigating the third claim. full article

It looks like the Ontario officials have 3 varying explanations.
1. The contents of the packages were "human tissue" and could not be classified as a fetus.
2. A new employee, unfamiliar with standard procedures, sent the remains through the mail the to the Fort Hope First Nation.
3. The areas were so remote that the only way to send the remains was via the mail.

If the contents were simply "human tissue" then why would the hospital have sent them in the first place? Do these same hospitals also routinely send removed kidneys, via the mail, to their patients as a courtesy? The answer could be that it was requested by the families. The question then becomes, were the families informed that they would be receiving the fetus in the mail? It would be incumbent upon the hospital to have made an arrangement with the families and that the families would have been fully informed as to what the arrangement would be. One family received the fetus in a package marked "diagnostic specimens." The remoteness of a community should not exclude it's members from being afforded the same common decency that other urban citizens enjoy.

Since this story broke last week, 3 First Nation Families have come forward with similar stories. Are there other First Nation Families out with similar experiences? The Assembly of First Nations should demand a nationwide investigation by the Minister of Indian Affairs and hold an inquest to receive testimonials from other First Nation families.

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