Again, the federal Conservative government has charged blindly into ideological battle with a decision to deny heroin to Vancouver addicts involved in a clinical research project.
The government's decision came shortly after Health Canada approved the program, which deals with addicts in life threatening situations for whom previous therapies have failed.
In this case, the strategy clearly fell under the heading of harm reduction, which generally acknowledges addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one and seeks to reduce the harm created by it and by recognizing that eliminating the problem is often not possible. Stephen Harper's Conservatives are not fans of harm reduction. They have fought health authorities repeatedly on the issue, most notably challenging the existence of Vancouver's supervised injection site, despite evidence that it has reduced harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Medical science has consistently backed up harm reduction as a sound philosophy. But the Tories have never been particularly interested in scientific evidence, much preferring ideological crusades.
It's a pattern that's been repeated by the Tories in all areas where science has yielded a result that likely won't appeal to its base of political supporters.
"The answer of course is not to treat heroin addiction with heroin," said Health Minister Rona Ambrose at a press conference in Toronto. "Our goal must be to take heroin out of the hands of addicts. We must focus on treatment and... on recovery," There is, of course, no logic to this particular decision. The fact that the study participants are all long-term chronic addicts who have failed to respond to other treatment would indicate they will be taking heroin regardless. The only difference will be whether that occurs in a safe, controlled setting or on the streets.
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