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Conservative Government sets its sights on Insite

Tony Clement, Reform/Conservative Minister of HealthFederal Health Minister Tony Clement addressed a meeting of the Canadian Medical Association on Monday where he deliberately and publicly denounced the ethics of doctors who support Insite*.

“The supervised injection site undercuts the ethics of medical practice and sets a debilitating example for all physicians and nurses, both present and future in Canada,” Mr. Clement declared.

Mr. Clement’s accusation stirred up quite a reaction in Canada’s medical community.

The Chair of the CMA’s Ethics Committee, Dr. Bonnie Cham, said “I found the use of medical ethics to justify a political decision, which will affect social policy to be troubling at best and misleading at worst.”

Dr.Gabor Maté patients are addictsDr. Gabor Maté, a physician who works directly with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside drug addicts, reacted with some ferocity to Mr. Clement’s attack.

“The repugnant aspect is his attack on the morality and ethics of human beings who are trying to work with a very difficult population,” said Dr. Maté in an interview, “I mean where does he come off? Where does he appoint himself as a moral judge of professionals who he doesn’t understand and knows nothing about?”

In a subsequent letter to the Globe and Mail, Dr. Maté wrote: “The minister ought to resign if he cannot tolerate disagreement without personally attacking health professionals who, under challenging circumstances and with no help from his government, are attempting to relieve suffering of which he seems to have no understanding,”

Ann Livingston, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, says “I almost feel a certain amount of pity for the guy (Clement) because I think he doesn’t seem to grasp just how sophisticated the level of discussion (has been) that’s gone on around ethics.”

This is the thing. This government has an ugly habit of imposing its ideology on the rest of us, even when that ideology is unsupported by the evidence of professionals and researchers who have dedicated their careers to understanding and studying the issue.

Canada’s Conservative government has set its sights on Insite. In addition to publicly attacking both the program and the professionals who work there, the government is appealing the BC Supreme Court’s ruling which allows Insite to continue operating. At the same time, Conservative MPs recently swamped Vancouver with offensive we’re-tough-on-drugs-unlike-those-pansy-assed-liberals propaganda.

If anybody’s on shaky ethical ground here, it’s the politicians, not the nurses and doctors.

To learn about how you can help protect Insite from the federal government, check out their Facebook group.

*Insite is a safe, clean facility where addicts inject their own drugs in the presence of nurses who will save their lives in the event of overdose. A side benefit is that these addicts have daily contact with non-judgmental health care professionals, which means they will be more likely to seek treatment for their addiction as well as for other health issues such as infections, wounds, diseases and pregnancy.


11 comments to Conservative Government sets its sights on Insite

  • This totally angers me, too. In fact, on some of the fliers I’ve been receiving, I’ve written snarky comments about the government’s stance on InSite. I am a fan of InSite because I am familiar with “harm reduction” and what that means to addicts and those of us with mental illnesses. This isn’t an ethics issue at all and I resent its being turned into one. This is a public health issue, it’s a poverty issue, it’s a mental health issue. Period. These asses in Parliament don’t live in the DTES and can’t be bothered to visit the site. If they don’t want to, that’s one thing; but at least go and visit a social worker who works with the population before making a judgment and then a decision about it. At the very least they should familiarize themselves with the term “harm reduction” before coming to conclusions.

  • Sometimes, I cannot help being astonished that this government wants to march down the path of American drug policy: a policy that has failed about as completely as it is possible to fail, and which lags virtually every other approach in the developed world in effectiveness.

  • I do hope you Canadians are able to oust your Bush-wannabe prime minister more quickly than we are getting rid of the original… and that both countries are able to elect successors who are human and intelligent and not blinded by ideology. Sigh.

  • Y’know, this is a government that seems to feel it can claim/hold the high moral ground merely by saying that it does. Repeatedly. As if doing so could drown out the noise of (utter) moral bankruptcy.

    I wish I could ignore these ideologue hacks, but their breathtaking lack of ethics, and ignorance of, ummm, actual facts and science n’stuff has gotten too loud…

  • I have a bad feeling about the coming election. The Liberals have an unelectable leader, and no other party is ready to govern. Things will only get worse with a Harper majority.

  • XUP

    I tend to agree with Robin, but the polls are showing them neck in neck, so maybe everyone is fed up enough with the Tories to elect Dion — stranger things have happened. If there’s an election in early October….?

  • It’s hard to get past the knee jerk reaction of people on the outside of the drug problem though. And that is what the REFORM party is relying on.

    My medical coop is a methadone program site and on M clinic day it’s a little creepy going into the walk in. I’ll be perfectly honest, I avoid it, because I don’t want to answer the kid’s questions about the M clinic patients there. The addicts are not “invisible”, and these are the ones getting help. Along with the addiction is the mental illness, systemic poverty, scary lack of parenting skills, and *illness*. That’s what I see sitting there in the waiting room with them. It is real easy to blame the addiction for all the rest when you see them lining up not for mental health care, not for parenting classes, not for therapy, or vocational training, or what have you, but for methadone

    So if relatively aware me has a knee jerk reaction towards this group, it is a safe bet that those that vote REFORM or conservative in BC are going to go with the simplistic ADDICTS ARE BAD, DRUGS ARE BAD, DOCTORS WHO GIVE ADDICTS DRUGS ARE BAD line the gov’t is giving them.


    I’m afraid of Dion’s wimpiness. I am TERRIFIED of a conservative majority government.

  • Oh and side line – Dr Gabor Mate is one of my FAVORITE authors – have you read any of his books Zoom? I’m chafing to get out Hold Onto Your Kids, I just finished reading Scattered Minds and I read When the Body Says No when it came out. GREAT holistic insights.

  • WC -agreed!

    Milan, it mystifies me too. On no logical level does it make any sense to be emulating US drug policy. I think it has more to do with Harper worshipping George Bush than anything else.

    Toni – you and me both. It’s embarrassing that our current PM thinks your current president is right.

    Coyote, you’re absolutely right. But that strategy of staking out the moral high ground through sheer mindless repetition has been very effective in the States.

    Robin, me too, it makes me very uneasy. I think Dion should be a hero and step down now in order to save the country from a Conservative majority.

    XUP – I don’t know, it’s too important to roll the dice on. Dion needs to get out of the way.

    Mudmama – I know. Addiction is such a complex set of problems. The Conservatives like simple solutions – or at least the illusion of them. As for Gabor Maté, I haven’t read any of his other books but I’m reading In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts now, which is about addiction.

  • Ooh, I must check out his books. Clement’s remarks seem even more despicable than the conservative appeal. I have more to say but I’m supposed to be packing.

  • Judi

    I’m not from Canada but I am a health professional and this whole idea intrigues me. And then when I compare and contrast it with the discussions of MDs doing lethal injections, my mind just boggles.