Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Study: Crime doesn't rise near Vancouver drug injection site

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A safe injection site for drug addicts to shoot up under medical supervision has not brought more crime or attracted drug dealers or users from other jurisdictions, according to a police-commissioned study.

The report by Irwin M. Cohen, a criminologist commissioned to examine the site for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is expected to be considered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper before he decides whether to renew a legal exemption for Insite from a section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Insite, located in the Downtown Eastside slum between the downtown area and Chinatown, is run by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority under a Health Canada exemption that expires Sept. 12.

"Some of the major concerns by those who were not in favor of supervised drug injection sites have not borne out - this idea that if we cluster drug users in a very specific area around this site you're going to have public nuisance increases, you're going to have crime increases," wrote Cohen, a professor at University College of the Fraser Valley.

Backers, including some health experts, have touted the site for reducing the spread of AIDS, which is often transmitted by drug users sharing hypodermic syringes.

Harper, who has not attended an international AIDS conference this week in Toronto, said in May he was waiting for evaluations from the Mounties and other agencies before deciding on an exemption extension.

In a separate study, Raymond R. Corrado, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, reviewed 25 English peer-reviewed journal articles and United Nations-commissioned reports on injection sites in Australia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and applied those findings to the experience to date in Vancouver.

"I would say from a research perspective, not from a citizen's perspective, the experiment should continue," Corrado said.

GOP senator seeks to derail Oregon's assisted-suicide law

WASHINGTON - A Kansas senator wants to block Oregon's landmark law allowing doctor-assisted suicide.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has introduced legislation that would bar doctors from prescribing federally controlled drugs for use in assisted suicide.

Brownback's bill, dubbed the Assisted Suicide Prevention Act, marks the first legislative assault on assisted suicide since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's law in January.

"When the law permits killing as a medical 'treatment,' society's moral guidelines are blurred, and killing could gain acceptance as a solution for the chronically ill or vulnerable," said Brownback, a favorite of religious conservatives who is considering a run for president.

Brownback said in an interview that he did not expect the bill to become law this year, but said it was important to bring up the bill as a "discussion point and hopefully as a rallying point for those opposed to assisted suicide." He said his bill would specifically address the court's ruling, which said the Bush administration overstepped its authority when it sought to overturn the Oregon law.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., immediately opposed the bill, calling it the latest in a series of proposals by Senate Republicans to appeal to their base.

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