DRUG USERS HAVE TO ASSUME SOME RISKS
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
It seems that every day we either read or hear about lives lost or ruined as a consequence of selling or using illicit drugs. Efforts of politicians, police and our court system appear powerless to stop the mounting toll in human misery and social cost.
That's why I believe one recent news story, describing a different approach received as much media attention as it did, being heralded as a novel, but potential breakthrough strategy, in the war on drugs.
Sadly, it's a view I don't share.
The story involved a Saskatchewan woman who suffered the misfortune of overdosing on crystal meth last year. As a result of the overdose, which put her in a coma for 10 days, she claims to have suffered permanent heart damage. What makes this story newsworthy is the fact that she recently commenced a civil negligence action in Saskatchewan court against the person who sold her the drug.
So what do I think are this woman's chance of success with her action? For any one of a variety of legal defences, slim and none, and slim is leaving town.
That's because in Canadian negligence law there are several key elements that must be to proven. Firstly, there is the negligent act itself, which presumes a duty or standard of care between the parties. In the case of the woman and her drug supplier, I can't see how a court could determine there is an appropriate standard of care which exists between this drug user and her supplier.
Secondly, to be successful with her claim the woman also needs to prove a causal link between the use of the drug and the damage to her heart. Considering the excessive lifestyle and unhealthy habits of most drug users I believe it would be virtually impossible to establish a causal connection between the drug she purchased on this particular occasion and her health problem.
And even assuming that the woman is able to overcome these difficult evidentiary hurdles she's still not guaranteed success because there are also several legal defences available which could effectively destroy or reduce her claim. The defence which I believe would be most effective is the defence known as the "voluntary assumption of risk."
By taking the illicit drug the woman is deemed to have assumed the risk and associated health damage caused by its usage.
All in all, despite the media hype, this claim by drug user versus drug supplier will not establish any useful legal precedent in society's battle with drugs.