Sterilization/drug experiments on Blackfoot and other children

Craven, Jim jcraven at
Tue Jun 19 16:04:47 MDT 2001

Alberta sterilization victims also used as guinea pigs
Revelation comes as 40 victims win $4M settlement
                Marina Jimenez  National Post

As many as 100 of the children at the centre of the Alberta
sterilization scandal of the late 1960s and early 1970s were also
used as guinea pigs in drug trials, the National Post has learned.
The children lived at the Provincial Training School in Red Deer.
Some were wards of the province and others were placed in the
school by their parents, who did not consent to the sterilization or
medical experimentation, which included the administration of
powerful steroids and anti-psychotic drugs. Experts say one of the drugs
used, the anabolic steroid norbolethone, is illegal today. The
anti-psychotic tranquilizer haloperidol was also used. Its effect on
children is said to be akin to hitting them over the head with a
sledge hammer.

Yesterday, 40 people who were sterilized against their will
reached a settlement totalling $4-million with the government of
Alberta. This brings to 540 the number of people who have settled with the
province for being sterilized under the now-defunct Alberta
Sterilization Act, which was in effect from 1928 to 1972. The operations
were ordered by Alberta's eugenics board to prevent the mentally disabled
from passing on their defects to offspring.
Lawyers say they want more money from the government for
victims who had to endure being tested with powerful drugs in
addition to being sterilized. "Invading people's rights in the form of
unauthorized research and taking advantage of people who couldn't
look after themselves is the kind of thing that courts award
punitive damages for," said Jon Faulds, an Edmonton lawyer representing 109
sterilization victims still negotiating settlements.

Allan Garber, another Edmonton lawyer acting for the former training school
residents, said they were treated like cattle. "The experimental drug
treatment only compounds the evil that was done to our clients."  Dr.
Leonard J. LeVann, medical superintendent from 1949 to 1974 at the Red Deer
school, published the results of his drug experiments in scholarly
journals, which were recently turned over to lawyers for the victims.  The
articles show that Dr. LeVann, who is dead, gave 100 undersized children
the anabolic steroid
norbolethone over a 12-month period in 1971. The drug -- now
illegal in Canada -- made the children gain weight. But it
also produced some side effects: the genitals of two boys
increased in size and one girl's voice deepened."The treatment of retarded
growth in children with anabolic agents is controversial," he wrote in the
September 1971 edition of the International Journal of Clinical
Pharmacology, Therapy and Toxicology. Nonetheless, he called the drug study
"entirely satisfactory."

Norbolethone is illegal today because of its powerful side effects -
damage to the liver and negative psychological symptoms. Anabolic steroids
can also increase aggressive sexual behaviour in
men and cause secondary sexual characteristics, for example,
facial hair in girls. Dr. LeVann also gave 100 children haloperidol, an
anti-psychotic tranquilizer, over a period of 40 days in
the late 1960s to counter hyperactivity and excitability. Dr. Louis
Pagliaro, a professor of educational psychology and the
associate director of the substance abusology research unit at the
University of Alberta, says haloperidol "would essentially knock
(children) out. (It) generally decreases people's ability to learn and
adversely affects memory and behaviour." Dr. LeVann's studies are "full of
half-truths, assumptions and by today's standards, lack proper research
methodology," says Dr. Pagliaro.

About 2,800 people were sterilized in Alberta before the Sexual
Sterilization Act was finally repealed. Documents now show that
many of the people sterilized were not mentally disabled. In 1996, the
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench ordered the provincial government to pay
Leilani Muirer $740,000 for being wrongfully confined in the Red Deer
school and sterilized. Her landmark victory opened a floodgate of
litigation. In June, 1998, the government agreed to
pay 500 more sterilization claimants up to $100,000. Many continue to live
in the Red Deer facility, known today as the Michener Centre. The  province
has spent $54 million on settlements to date.
The compensation deal for the sterilizaiton victims announced
yesterday, much the same as those announced last June, gives
claimants $75,000 now and another $25,000 after three years, if
they are then living outside institutions.

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