Diana West

Even in a culture as (how to put it?) comfortable with its own relativism as ours is, it's unlikely that a recent Washington Post front-page article about Canada's "safe injection sites" for intravenous drug users went down quite as smoothly as the morning coffee. It wasn't the pathetic degradation of the addicts that was tough to swallow, but rather the extremely creepy revelation that the gentle art of healing now includes such, well, harmful practices as "vein maintenance" and "injection techniques" as part of a Canadian government-approved effort to ensure that junkies inject themselves with their poison of choice according to the highest medical standards.

First, consider the Canadian drug lexicon. What are "safe injection sites"? The euphemistically named product of Canada's euphemistically named "harm reduction" drug policy, "safe injection sites" are where Canadians may shoot heroin, crystal methamphetamine, Drano or whatever, directly into their bloodstreams under the expert supervision of registered nurses.

"Go flush with the skin," Patti Zettel, a nurse, instructs an addict -- sorry, "client" -- preparing a fix (dose?) of crystal methamphetamine at the Dr. Peter Centre, a "safe" site in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Then up. Once in the vein, release the tourniquet. Look," the nurse says, apparently to the Post reporter on hand. "She has good blood flow."

Frankly, a pitiable addict's "good blood flow" is less than likely to elicit celebratory whoops in the casual reader -- unless, of course, the casual reader happens to be a "harm reducer" like Nurse Zettel. She, along with two nursing colleagues, articulated the definition of "harm reduction nursing" in a recent issue of Canadian Nurse magazine as a practice aimed at "reducing the consequences of drug use without necessarily requiring a reduction in the drug use itself."

In other words, if a "client" is killing himself with drugs; destroying his loved ones with drugs; reducing his community to a crime-ridden slum with drugs; and keeping money flowing to narco-terrorists the world over with drugs, by all means encourage the "client" to do so -- as long as he is harm-reducingly equipped with a sterile syringe, a proper tourniquet and some decent gauze. "The approach," the nurses explained in their article, "is to educate participants and to support them in making their own informed choices."

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).