Saturday, May 14, 2011

Insite Supreme Court Arguments Highlight Conservative Government's Mendacity, Inhumanity

The Supreme Court heard the arguments, and has reserved a decision.  Hard to say what the sense is as far as tea-reading the questions and comments of the Justices, but a couple parts deserve more notice::
When Insite opened, the Bush administration's drug czar, John Walters, called it "state-sponsored suicide," and after a Conservative government was elected in Canada in 2006, it moved to close the site.
But Federal lawyer Robert Frater told the court Thursday that no decision has been reached on whether to extend its exemption from federal drug laws.
"The decision to grant or not to grant the exemption has not been made," he said.
Arvay said there's no question the Conservative government will terminate the exemption and called it "completely disingenuous" for the government to say that they might grant an exemption.
In 2008 the then federal health minister, Tony Clement, told the Canadian Medical Association that the Conservative government opposed Insite because "injections are not medicine and they do not heal."
I don't know if lawyers arguing in court are required to be truthful, but I can't see how that claim isn't a lie.  The Government already tried to close Insite by letting its exemption lapse.  In fact, that exemption has actually lapsed, and Insite has been continuing to operate only because the Courts have allowed it.  Were it up to the Federal government, the RCMP would already have raided the place and charged its staff and patients with possession and trafficking.  

That's their mendacity.  How about the government's inhumanity?
Federal lawyer Paul Riley conceded health ministers allowed it to operate from 2003-2008 following a wave of deaths in the 1990s “to permit a scientific study of the nature of that program as a question of policy.”
“And it worked,” interjected Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
She cited the trial judge’s findings based on research showing addiction is an illness; unsanitary equipment is linked to infections and disease, and risk of death is lessened by supervision of qualified health professionals.

“Lives are being saved, diseases are being prevented by this site, and are we putting too fine a point on it by saying the site has nothing to do with it?” McLachlin said.
“In the end this program somehow, while not being perfect, works,” said Justice Louis LeBel. “Have you got anything that tends to demonstrate that this program doesn’t work?”
Riley stammered in reply: “I think that’s a fair observation.”
It's useful to step back and recap that this Court case is only happening because in 2008 the Conservative federal government refused to simply extend Insite's exemption from the sections of the (overly broad) Criminal code that would allow police to shut down and prosecute a medical injection supervision site.  Now, having had 8 years to study the facility and all the available evidence suggesting it does in fact work to reduce the harms associated with intravenous drug use, while doing no evident harm to the community, they still want to shut it down.

That really is the difference between conservativism and liberalism.  I don't like Insite, or more accurately, the need for it.  I wish that there was some great way to treat addicts, and that we had a society where no one felt like taking intravenous drugs was preferable to the daily hell of their lives.  We don't have these, and being offered a way to reduce the number of overdose fatalities, HIV/Hepatitis transmissions and stray needles left in parks and alleys, I'm going to take it until something better comes along.  Conservatives just want the addicts to suffer, viewing the fact of their addiction as proof of their unworthiness and the harms listed above as just desserts.  They don't like Insite because it works.

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