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The 'outdated' medical phrase causing trauma for Indigenous patients

Jarred Cross -

A leading Indigenous heart health practitioner has labelled language standards used in medical notes as outdated and risking inflicting trauma on First Nations people.

It comes amid debate over phrasing at this week's coronial inquest into the deaths of three Aboriginal girls with from rheumatic heart disease in Queensland in 2019 and 2020.

On Tuesday Noongar woman, former cardiac nurse and RHD Australia director Vicki Wade told the coroner describing patient behaviour as 'non-compliant' carried family trauma, a word her mother had felt the brunt of throughout her life under intrusive policy targeted at Indigenous people.

Ms Wade said the continued use of the phrase in the health system brought unwelcome reminders.

"I've seen it in my medical notes, I've seen it my mum's notes time and time again," she said.

RHD Australia clinical advisor Anna Ralph. image:

"It goes back to how government have controlled Aboriginal people."

Ms Wade said family of one of the girls felt doctors involved in the practice at the centre of the inquest lacked a quality of care.

Questions over phrasing in medical records have continued through the week.

The representation for Ms Sandy and Kaya, Matt Jackson had pushed on the use of the phrase non-compliance, among other terms.

Remote medical service practitioner Samuel Stevens said he could see where medical language standards could lead to unconscious bias, while Queensland health chief operating officer David Rosengren defended its use.

RHD Australia clincal advisor Anna Ralph said in the Northern Territory similar language "went out decades ago".

Ms Ralph said the health sector needed to move away from language blaming the patient.

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