Public opinion should not trump public health

Greg Knill/ Progress File Paramedics and firefighters attempt to revive a man who overdosed outside a Chilliwack shopping centre.

I would like to respond to a letter to the editor from last month: “Medical voices not the only ones that count in safe injection debate.”

Even though I’m a little late in responding I feel that Mr. Duckworth, and maybe some others, could use some education on 1. propaganda and 2. Health Care Policy.

1. Propaganda is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”

Pretty sure the flyer Mr. Strahl sent out putting quotes around the “safe” in Safe Injection Site is a very good example fitting that description. He did send out two questions for Chilliwackians to choose to answer, but the rhetoric that came along with these questions was obviously biased (it was not difficult to ascertain Mr. Strahl’s opinion from this mail-out) and was certainly used to promote his point of view. I am very happy Mr. Strahl is seeking his constituents’ opinions, however I would appreciate that instead of trying to sway them he actually try to just seek them. Or, even better, give us actual real information on the topic of the survey and then seek our “informed” opinions.

2. We do live in a democracy and are always free to express our opinions, however when it comes to our public health many of those decisions are not, and should not, be made solely democratically. The overall objective of health care policy is to create conditions in society so that the entire population can enjoy good health on equal terms. These policies should be made based on the existence of sound medical evidence not un-informed public opinion. If we allowed policies to be made based on the latter we would likely still all be dying of cholera and influenza, not believing that hand hygiene could help stop their spread.

To give another example (one that is oddly controversial, but also should not be): It is public health policy that all children get regular childhood vaccines to stop the spread of dangerous diseases. You are free to choose to not vaccinate yourself or your children but you cannot choose to not have a public vaccination program in your community simply because you are against them. The same is true for harm reduction strategies such as Safe Consumption Sites. Mr. Duckworth if, in the future, you were to unfortunately fall prey to the awful disease of addiction (the cause of which is 50 per cent genetic, by the way, so your “enabling” argument is equivalent to saying that giving insulin to Type 2 diabetics is “enabling” diabetics) you certainly have the freedom to choose to not attend a life-saving Safe Consumption Site, but do not try to limit others’ abilities to choose to attend one in their community. That choice is theirs.

I do agree with Mr. Duckworth on one thing: please do read-up on all issues (from reputable sources, not random internet pages) and always make informed decisions. Here is a website that can help get you started:

Thank you.

Chantal Chris