Deciding on InSite is a moral judgment

- May 17th, 2011
insitephoto

Razor, a intravenous drug user uses the heroin injection site Insite in Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, BC. APR. 17, 2011. photo by CARMINE MARINELLI / QMI AGENCY

There has been snickering among my critics on the left who think giving junkies a good place to shoot up is an honourable thing.

It turns out that I committed the sin of questioning heroin injection sites, labeling them clearly (they are not safe) and pointing out that just because it is backed up by peer-reviewed literature doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

First off, there are problems with the peer-review process.

Secondly and I have said it before, just because something may work doesn’t mean we should do it.

That last part is the cause of some of the snickering among the “any end justifies the means” crowd. They seem to think of morals as something the Victorians or present day knuckledraggers use to help make decisions.

We’re all well beyond that now aren’t we.

Except that we aren’t.

Morals still matter and still help each of us form opinions and make decisions.

If we did something just because it worked and didn’t care about the morals then we could solve all kinds of problems by employing immoral means just because they worked.

Imagine how quickly the war in Afghanistan would have lasted if we had just nuked the place. And I don’t mean just one bomb, I mean carpet bomb the place with nukes. It would have been wrong but it would have gotten rid of our problem a lot faster.

Would AIDS still be with us if we had just killed anyone that showed symptoms back in the 1980s? Remember back then it would come for everyone so killing those with symptoms of the soon to be epidemic disease would have worked but it would have been wrong.

We make moral judgments all the time, it is part of human nature.

Helping junkies shoot poison into their veins and then putting them back on the street is wrong. Would I have as much of a problem if these drugs were administered as part of an ongoing treatment program to help wean addicts off of drugs? Probably not.

But that’s not what InSite does. InSite allows people to enter a government backed facility and use street drugs that they have purchased on the street, drugs that could have anything mixed in, and shoot those illegal drugs into their veins. The addict then leaves the facility and heads back out on the street.

Do they get their next fix there? Some might, some won’t and others will share dirty needles elsewhere in the city. This isn’t a completely controlled environment and at the end of the day these are street drugs we are allowing people to shoot.

This is not treatment, it is aiding and abetting a group of addicts in the hope of treatment.

This is not true compassion, it is a coward’s compassion.

This is not about sensible drug policy it is about the end goal of loosening drug laws.

We need to say no.

Categories: Politics

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19 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Video of you + Luam Kidane: you did well to get her to enunciate her revolutionary and uncompromising postures. you should have riposted to her with even more moral and vocal fibre – people like her deserve to be denounced, with contempt.

  2. John says:

    So according to you, it’s moral to let people suffer and die instead of trying to help.
    I’ll remember that.

    Insite isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it’s a start, and it is having some success.

    The Harper government doesn’t seem to have any plan except locking people up — and that doesn’t work.

    Take a walk from the courthouse on Hastings and go through the DTES. Unless we are prepared to spend billions of dollars locking up people who are currently getting a slap on the wrist before and after shooting up.

  3. robinottawa says:

    Wierd. No one is saying insite is good, but, like democracy, best of a bad situation. Your alternatives would possibly improve things, but can they be implemented? If not, how does it show courageous compassion to go back to the pre-insite situation?

  4. brian.lilley says:

    John, when did I say we should lock people up and let them die? On air and in print I have called for treatment of addiction not management of the addiction.
    You say the Harper government only wants to lock people up…..check your facts, they have a $232 million five year plan that focuses on prevention, treatment and enforcement.
    http://www.nationalantidrugstrategy.gc.ca/treat-trait.html

  5. Max says:

    Brian, you’re a reporter and a journalist, so aren’t you supposed to believe in, or at least show some respect for, the facts of the matter?

    Because when it comes to the treatment of drug addicts, the facts are almost impossibly obvious: the approach you’re advocating (drugs are morally wrong, and the only way to deal with their use is through criminalization and prosecution) doesn’t work. It never has. It never will.

    The fact that we’ve deployed it for two generations now to little appreciable effect (indeed, the problem is getting worse, not better) at the cost of billions of dollars in taxpayer money ought to be evidence enough that it’s time to try something different. The Vancouver police get that. The local business owners get that. The health care community gets that. The people who have spent far, far more time studying the details of this issue than you get that. Why don’t you?

    As an side, it’s interesting to me that you choose to refer to those who habitually use heroin as “sick people” – I wonder how you feel about type-two diabetics, then? They use needles. They shoot up. Like drug users, type-two diabetes is largely a self-inflicted condition. Do you feel the same sense of moral outrage about their behaviour, and the state’s decision to “aid and abet” it? If not, how come?

  6. Max says:

    That should, of course, be “an aside,” and not “an side.” Cripes.

  7. brian.lilley says:

    Max, can you point to where I have called for addicts to be locked up? I have called for treatment, which InSite is not. And as for heroin addiction being a sickness, yes, and I believe addicts would call it that as well.

  8. Chris says:

    How are these drug addicts acquiring their money to buy their illegal drugs?
    If they are stealing, prostituting or dealing to support their habits they are breaking the law and spreading misery around the city.

    Hastings street is becoming more of a zombie movie every time i see it.

  9. Max says:

    “Locked up” is your terminology – but I’m assuming, given the fact that you don’t appear to believe in harm reduction (that it’s “wrong”) then you must, by logical extension, believe in the criminalization of drug use. If there’s another alternative out there then please, enlighten me.

  10. brian.lilley says:

    Residential treatment. It’s not difficult to figure out, I’ve said it several time. Really and truly help people kick their habit rather than manage it.

  11. jon evan says:

    I think you are correct Brian that Insite’s endgame will be “loosening drug laws”. They call it ‘harm reduction’. But, obviously Insite is not that YET.
    To make it so requires that the next step be providing Insite’s patrons with free heroin etc. because now they may be causing themselves harm by injecting impurities even toxins. That is harmful and should NOT be tolerated. That is true “harm reduction”!

    Now, I strongly disagree (not just me but others) about heroin addiction. It is NOT a “sickness” i.e. disease but in fact a choice. They CAN all stop if they want. I know I did. The disease model removes personal responsibility and makes these Insite patrons weaker in the process. They are disempowered by the disease model and made to be victims of some “disease”. Instead, we should spend money advocating the power of personal choice and offering programs to help them exercise this choice to stop injecting themselves with heroin. It is that easy. Yes, there choices have led to health issues and me being a physician am very sympathetic to that plight. But don’t call Insite compassion: you’re just enabling their bad choices and weakening them in the process.

  12. Max says:

    Just like distributing condoms to teenagers “encourages” them to make “bad choices,” right Jon? Just because it worked for you – and that’s nice that it did – doesn’t mean it will, or can, or must for everyone else. Give people choices. Let them take the path that best fits their circumstances.

    And Brian – you are aware that InSite is paired with a program called OnSite, right? The InSite facility acts as a bridge – a gateway, if you will – to a residential program located right upstairs.

  13. Duncan Kinney says:

    You realize that on top of Insite is a facility called Onsite which provides residential treatment. They work together.

    http://vancouver.ca/fourpillars/newsletter/Feb09/Onsite.htm

    The loosening of drug laws is not the end goal of Insite, it’s a reaction to terribly flawed drug laws. Loosening drug laws is the only viable conclusion that sane people can reach.

  14. jon evan says:

    Max says: “doesn’t mean it will, or can, or must for everyone else. Give people choices.”

    I don’t get your point. What won’t work for these people? If they have no money for heroin they won’t come to Insite unless you are planning to give them more choices like choosing free clean harm reduced heroin at Insite? If they don’t come to Insite how can you help them make choices? I am agreeing we need residential programs to help them choose to stop taking heroin. We need programs to get people off the street, feed and cloth them and help them understand they are not victims of some addiction disease but in fact they can choose to stop heroin. They are not helpless like the diabetics but are normal human beings with the power to choose. But enabling them to make bad choices (which Insite does) just victimizes them and is not a solution in my humble opinion. I would like my tax money allocated not to Insite but to more realistic programs. If you love Insite fine donate to it, volunteer there, etc. But I don’t like it when you choose for me where my tax money is going.

  15. Bryan says:

    Your analogy of Insite with the Afghan war and AIDS is false, and here’s why. For all three “problems” the goal of our response is to protect human life, including that fundamental aspect of life, liberty. With Insite, it’s harm reduction from drug injection. In Afghanistan, it’s protecting Americans from terrorism and the Afghan people from the tyranny of the Taliban. With AIDS, it’s obviously to keep people from dying of AIDS.

    Insite reduces deaths related to drug overdose, and probably disease transmission too. Nuking Afghanistan would kill tens of millions of innocent people. Killing everyone who showed symptoms of AIDS would prevent these innocent afflicted people from living at least partial lives, and would probably catch non-infected people as well. The latter two “solutions” would not fulfill the goal of protecting human life.

    You can’t just characterize it as “problem” and “solution”. That’s misleading. Your analogy is false.

  16. Jay says:

    I like how addicts are portrayed as ‘the victims’. What about the families and people who are the real victims of the addicts? The theft of peoples belongings to feed habits. The destroyed marriages, the neglected children, the waste of peoples life-time earnings by the addicts? Why doesn’t any of these ‘caring’ people focus on getting resources for those people?

    Will any of these addicts EVER answer for the societal crimes I listed above? Why should the real victims pay with their families, marriages, and children then pay with their stuff and then pay again with their taxes? All this so an addict can do their drugs without the harsh realities of the choice they made: DEATH & DISEASE. EVERYONE KNOWS THE POSSIBILITIES OF THEIR CHOICE. I’ve never heard anyone say “Oh… you can die from doing heroin? I thought it was safe.”

    Nice to see that once again people are more focused with making themselves look better by saying “Boo Hoo help the addicts! Help the addicts!”

    I say: HELP THE REAL VICTIMS and let the addicts get the real-life penalties for their own choices.

  17. Brian D says:

    Hey Brian, a hearty congratulations on your being lauded as “Canada’s Glenn Beck” by John Beattie, founder of the Canadian Nazi Party. You must be overflowing with pride.

    Maybe you could find yourself a doctor and do some neat experiments on those addicts instead?

  18. Deborah says:

    If people want Insite closed down, fair enough. BUT, IN ALL FAIRNESS, you must then close down every establishment that serves and sells alcohol. Treatment for alcohol isn’t working either and there is NO DIFFERENCE between alcohol and any other type of drug, because, guess what – ALCOHOL IS A DRUG – and according to the latest scientific research that SUN NEWS has apparently not perused nor reported on, is that ALCOHOL IS THE WORST DRUG OF ALLL THE DRUGS ON EARTH! So, let’s not be stupid about it anymore people – if we want to eradicate drugs (and we never will, it is an exercise in futility), then we MUST START WITH ALCOHOL. Case closed.

  19. B Lagger says:

    Compassion? In Canada? Don’t talk to me about that. This country is full of people who insist on their rights with little regard for other people. Just because you have a problem (eg. drug-related issue), it does not mean the government or other citizens should be footing the bill for you. “Compassion” goes hand-in-hand with “morality”, and it is obvious that not EVERYONE has the same beliefs and reasons for why they feel the way they do.

    Ever heard of a show-off? A person who just does something (“good” or “bad”) that makes them seem better than other people? That’s exactly what some Canadians are. A phony, trying to pass off “doing the right thing” even though they just want to seem like they are accepting.

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