Canadian doctors overwhelmingly support public funding of safe drug-injection sites, including a Vancouver clinic roundly condemned by former health minister Tony Clement.
Of 540 physicians surveyed by the Canadian Medical Association, 78% agree or strongly agree "harm-reduction strategies, including safe-injection sites, should be part of a publicly funded strategy to treat addiction."
The remaining 22% disagree, the CMA said. The electronic survey is considered accurate to plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The doctors' endorsement adds support to Vancouver's controversial Insite safe-injection site, which has operated since 2003. The first legal supervised injection centre in North America, it provides a secure location and clean needles for drug addicts, as well as access to medical treatment and other social services.
The project is meant to reduce both overdose deaths and transmission of blood-borne disease among those who share needles. Insite's supporters hope it will also encourage users to seek treatment. The clinic is part of a broader-based approach to drugs called "harm reduction."
During the summer, Clement argued Insite "undercuts the ethic of medical practice" and is an example "not of health care for the living, but palliative care for the slowly dying.
"( Addicts ) need our help and our intervention, not a place to shoot up," he said.
New federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq wasn't available for comment yesterday. Her spokeswoman, Josee Bellemare, said the government "focuses on prevention and treatment for those addicted to drugs" and added the federal government "has provided $10 million to open a 20-bed treatment facility for female sex workers in Vancouver's downtown eastside."
While the doctors strongly back Insite, Canadians in general are more muted. An August survey by Angus Reid Strategies found 38% of Canadians supported Insite, while 23% opposed it. About four in 10 were undecided.
The same poll noted while 5% felt "harm reduction" should be the primary approach to tackling drug addiction, 45% preferred policy makers concentrate on education and prevention. About 44% felt both approaches should be used.
Backing for the clinic was stronger among the public in Vancouver itself, Angus Reid found in a survey in May, with 57% of residents polled endorsing Insite.
Author: Christina Spencer
Pubdate: Tue, 11 Nov 2008
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Canoe Limited Partnership.