Two decades ago, a brilliant young nurse who was studying with us at Regent College asked me about the morality of offering harm reduction to addicts. In particular, she talked to me about where she worked: InSite, Vancouver’s innovative safe-injection house in the city’s notorious downtown east side (DTES).
I have a great deal of respect for nurses. And this was no ordinary nurse. Meera Bai had earned three degrees in relevant fields: a BA in development studies (international and community development), a BSc in biology, and a BN in nursing. She was now working on her master’s degree in theological studies. And she has since completed her MD (she is now Dr. Meera Grover) and is heading for residency.
My initial reaction to her question was dumb shock: How could such a serious Christian person, and a highly trained health care professional at that, possibly conspire in helping addicts shoot up? But as we talked, and as Meera cleverly used some of my own ethical principles against me (which would become my books Making the Best of It and Why You’re Here), I became persuaded.
Harm reduction in itself is a good idea. How could a Christian not want to help people avoid loneliness, fear, illness, and death…on top of the miserable life of the hard-core addict?
I was all the more persuaded when I found out that other staff members were connected with Regent or with other Christian schools in Canada. InSite, in fact, looked more and more like an outpost of the Kingdom in one of the darkest mission fields in our country.
This impression is bolstered by science and a vast range of relevant professional experience. InSite has been shown to be a successful public health initiative in over 30 scientific research reports published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Such reports demonstrate that InSite users are significantly more likely to seek long-term addiction treatment and to stay off the street than users who choose to inject outside.
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