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News > Latin America

Mexico Accused of Medical Discrimination Against Indigenous

  • Raramuri people wait for medical attention in Carichi, Chihuahua, in Mexico in this file photo from January 2012.

    Raramuri people wait for medical attention in Carichi, Chihuahua, in Mexico in this file photo from January 2012. | Photo: EFE

Published 4 August 2018

The death of three newborns in a marginalized community in Chihuahua state has brought to light systemic failures in the medical system.

In a hospital in a remote and marginalized community in northern Mexico, three Indigenous newborns have died as a result of negligence and a lack of appropriate medical equipment, raising concerns about discriminatory practices in La Sierra Tarahumara.


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The National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) said there was enough evidence to suggest human rights violations in the treatment of four Indigenous newborns in the Community Hospital of Guadalupe y Calvo, three of whom died.

The commission presented a series of recommendations to the governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral Jurado.

The municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo is at the southern tip of Chihuahua, Mexico's biggest state – far away from the capital. It's a region ravaged by organized crime, where the government is largely symbolic and often falls prey to criminal networks.

In a communique, the CNDH said the hospital's staff should have provided effective care for the children, taking into account their health conditions, but failed to do so.

The hospital also lacked appropriate medical equipment – including incubators and an intensive care unit for newborns – thereby perpetuating inequality in a region mostly inhabited by Indigenous people.

The CNDH also reported that the infants were treated by a final-year medical student without the supervision of a doctor, leading to improper medical attention and, ultimately, three deaths.

A young Indigenous O'dam (also called 'Tepehuan' in Spanish) woman in the hospital gave birth to twins with respiratory problems, fever and risks of neonatal sepsis and nectrotizing enterocolitis.

An Indigenous Raramuri (or 'Tarahumara') woman gave birth to a child with the same symptons. In both cases, staff failed to properly address the issues or place the newborns in intensive care units or incubators.

Another woman gave birth to a girl with respiratory difficulties, tachypnea and sepsis, which were not properly treated, but her life was saved after she was transferred to another hospital.

Chihuahua's Human Rights Commission discovered the case in media reports and launched an investigation, but ceded the case to the CNDH as it became a matter of national public opinion.

The CNDH then called on the governor of Chihuahua to compensate the victims and their relatives, including providing psychological and medical care for life for the sole surviving child.

The governor was also pressured to launch an investigation and legal proceedings, as well as improve the conditions of the hospital and ensure staff are properly trained.

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