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Are supervised injecting centres ethical?

Thursday, 8 June 2017  | Ethos editor

In response to the proposal by Sex Party MLC Fiona Patten for a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) proposed for Richmond, Victoria, the State Government has established an inquiry into Drug Law Reform.

To help our readers stay informed about the key issues and views, we offer the following:

The case against MSICs

Submission by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) opposing the introduction of supervised injecting rooms. In their media release, the ACL argues that ‘harm minimisation and evidence-based responses to drug use like needle and syringe programs, pharmacotherapies as well as treatment and support services are our focus’.

The case for MSICs

Response by UnitingCare ReGen, the lead alcohol and other drug treatment and education agency of UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania, to claims made in the Herald Sun that the introduction of supervised injecting rooms ‘would enrage Christian groups’ (‘Services back injecting room’, 02/06/17).

Discussion of the ethical dilemma around MSICs

In The Ethics Of Supervised Heroin Injecting Rooms (see pp.16-23 of ‘The Ethics of Drug and Alcohol Care’, Zadok Paper S108, Spring 2000), Ethos’ Gordon Preece looks at the arguments for and against MSICs. He concludes that MSIRs may offer a last resort solution, in line with the principle of concession described in relation to marriage in Matthew 19:1-12, if coupled with a strong education/prohibition and rehabilitation campaign. Such a solution should ensure no innocent casualties and a reasonable prospect of good outweighing evil.

And in ‘Medically Supervised Injecting Centres - A Good Idea or Not?’ (July 2011), Alan Gijsbers, Head of Addiction Service Medicine, Royal Melbourne Hospital, wrote that it is unfortunate that, when a debate is heavily polarised, it is likely that the protagonists will lose perspective. Safe injecting facilities make sense from a harm minimisation perspective, where a clean, medically supervised facility may well save people from overdose and the dissemination of infections. However by themselves they are no more than a bandaid on the broader issues of addiction.

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