The NJP has set up an Aboriginal Health Matters Project. We have found evidence of systemic discrimination of Aboriginal people in the Australian health system. In many cases in hospitals, particularly in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory, there have been terrible outcomes for Aboriginal Australians based on false assumptions made by health professionals that they must be under the influence of drugs and alcohol when in fact they are suffering from acute pain.
In one such case, our client, a 19-year-old woman woke up in so much agony from stomach pain that she could not walk. She crawled across the floor to reach the telephone and call her mother, who took her straight to the emergency department of a regional hospital in Western Australia. She was given Mylanta and some morphine and told she had indigestion. No scan was performed to see if the pain had anything to do with her pregnancy.
In fact, the young woman was bleeding internally and her life was at risk. She was suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, a condition where a foetus develops outside the womb, usually in a fallopian tube.