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It's a story you might expect to see a century ago. But this is recent history—as in just last year.

More than 60 Indigenous women are suing physicians, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the province of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Canada, saying they were sterilized against their will after giving birth. The sterilizations took place over the past 20 to 25 years, with the most recent incident happening in 2017.

Alisa Lombard, an associate at Maurice Law, the law firm handling the proposed class action lawsuit, told CBC Radio about what the indigenous women experienced.


"The women report going into hospital to have a baby, being pressured into signing a consent form, while in the throes of labour and the immediate aftermath of delivery, or not signing consent forms at all," she said. "In most cases, women report being told that the procedure was reversible—if not in all cases—and they leave sterile."

Some women were told they would not be allowed to see their newborns until they agreed to a tubal ligation.

The women's stories appear to show a pattern of coercion and harassment from the health professionals who were supposed to be taking care of them. "They would be approached, harassed, coerced into signing these consent forms," said Lombard, "or simply told that they could not leave before their tubes were tied or cut or cauterized, depending on the procedure that was used. Or that they could not see their baby until they agreed, or that CAS would be called or that they had to do this for their own health, for their children's health because they may have children who won't be healthy."

Newly appointed Senator Yvonne Boyer, the first Indigenous Senator for Ontario, produced a detailed report on forced sterilizations last year. She is a Métis lawyer and a former nurse, and she is calling on the Canadian government to take action on this issue.

“If it’s happened in Saskatoon, it has happened in Regina, it’s happened in Winnipeg, it’s happened where there’s a high population of Indigenous women,” Boyer said in an interview with CBC news. “I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help.”

Such sterilizations are bafflingly not illegal, which is one thing advocates are trying to change.

If you're looking for a logical explanation for this travesty besides prejudice and racism, give it up.

Dr. Janet Smylie, a family doctor and research chair at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, told CBC Radio that a combination of systemic and attitudinal racism fueled by stereotypes of Indigenous mothers are what underlie these sterilizations.

"In addition to the legal remedies and restitution of the situation and compensation and support for those women and their families and communities," Smylie says, "we have to radically change the way that we train our professionals and we have to teach them that stereotypes about Indigenous people and other marginalized social groups are still rampant. That good intentions are not enough, that often this ingrouping and outgrouping is happening at an unconscious level that we're not aware of, and we have to learn to recognize and challenge those unconscious patterns so we treat everybody with respect. Because we're trained in how to get informed consent, but we're offering it in a differential manner."

Smylie pointed out that this is simply a continuation of practices that have been going on for centuries. "It's been 500 years that this undermining of Indigenous women's reproductive sovereignty and these stereotypes around gendered racism have been perpetuated in North America."

She believes part of the solution is having Indigenous women be involved in advocating for birthing women. "We need to support Indigenous midwives and Indigenous doulas," she said. "There's amazing movements of local First Nations, Métis, Inuit women who are trained and can support and advocate for women, so that they can actually intervene."

The fact that this kind of thing ever happened is reprehensible. But the fact that the powers that be are still perpetuating such injustices against native people in the 21st century—and that it's not illegal—is too horrific and heinous to abide.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

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