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Nova Scotia judge approves Mi’kmaw class action against physicians

February 14, 2024
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APTN News: The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has certified a class action lawsuit against two physicians that alleges they conducted “secret” tests on dozens of participants during a study.

According to the statement of claim filed in 2021, Dr. Sharon Clarke and Dr. Robert M. Miller conducted an additional test on 59 members of the Pictou Landing First Nation without their knowledge or consent.

In 2017 and 2018, Pictou Landing First Nation community members participated in a study by the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM) that included MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.

The lawsuit alleges radiologists Clarke and Miller conducted additional MRI scans for their study called the MRI Elastography of the Liver of Indigenous Subjects, to publish MRI findings of liver disease in an Atlantic First Nations Populations.

Clarke is listed on the Dalhousie University website as a clinician-scientist and abdominal radiologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, associate professor at the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Faculty of Medicine, and cross-appointed at the Department of Surgery. In 2021 the Canadian Association of Radiologists awarded Clarke the Young Investigator Award.

class action
Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

According to the Dalhousie University website, Miller received the 2018 Doctors Nova Scotia award in recognition of his 40-year career as a radiologist, he also served on the board of directors. Miller was board chair and president of the Canadian Association of Radiology.

According to the statement of claim, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Health Authority, and the Montreal Heart Institute were initially named as defendants but were dropped in an amended claim.

Chief Andrea Paul is the primary plaintiff and was recently elected as the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Nova Scotia. Paul said in the claim she agreed to be part of a heart and mind study and that the test involved an MRI. She said when the test was over, she wasn’t removed 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 said.

The study involved “MRI elastography of the liver of Indigenous subjects,” and was called the “Indigenous Study,” according to the court documents that APTN News reported on December 2021.

The statement of claim said Paul and the other members of the class action were unaware that the extra study was taking place.

“The data from the MRI scans of the CAHHM Study were sent to the principal 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,” the claim said.

The claim said 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.

Read More: 

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

The document also said, “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 said on July 16, 2018, the researchers met with Paul to fill her in on the experiment. After that meeting, Paul took the information back to the community where they decided to take the case to court.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Clarke and Miller’s lawyer, Harry Thurlow told APTN News in an email, “The Defendants do not have any comment at this time.”

The class action was certified on Feb. 6, 2024. According to the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, no hearing dates have been set.

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Angel Moore