Canadian Health Minister Attacks Doctors for Supporting Safe Injection Sites

The latest outrage in Canada's heated harm reduction debate came at the hands of Health Minister Tony Clement who went off the rails by questioning the ethics of doctors who practice harm reduction:

MONTREAL — The association representing Canada's doctors rapped Health Minister Tony Clement on Monday after he questioned the ethics of physicians who support the use of supervised injection sites for drug addicts.


"Is it ethical for health-care professionals to support the administration of drugs that are of unknown substance, or purity or potency, drugs that cannot otherwise be legally prescribed?" Clement said.

He said that in any other medical setting, supervised overdoses would be considered "highly unprofessional." [Canadian Press]

Canada's doctors beg to differ:

The Canadian Medical Association's president responded to Clement by saying 79 per cent of members agree that safe-injection sites and harm-reduction programs work.

Dr. Brian Day said sites that allow addicts to inject their own narcotics under the supervision of medical staff have been successful in curbing illegal drug use and slowing the spread of disease.

"We specifically take issue with the minister using that phrase," Day told reporters after Clement's speech.

"The minister was off base in calling into question the ethics of physicians involved in harm reduction.

"It's clear that this was being used as a political issue."

Doctors are not politicians. They work to save lives and they are the experts on how to do that. If they all agree that existing programs are working, and some politician disagrees, then he is just wrong and he should shut up.

The drug war debate is ugly and that's not gonna change anytime soon. But one thing we can do without is politicians feigning moral superiority over the doctors who are saving lives every day. That's what this is about. Harm reduction shouldn't be a political issue and if you succeed in politicizing it for the wrong reasons, people will die.
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