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The Ethical Controversy Of A Nurse`s Role In Harm Reduction

1154 words - 5 pages

Harm reduction can be defined as an approach that aims to reduce the consequences of high risk behaviours such as injection drug use on the individual and on society as a whole. Harm reduction programs provide injection drug users with access to a clean injection environment, sterile injections, drug-preparation equipment and safe disposal of contaminated material at the time of injection. Staff members in harm reduction facilities provide health teaching, anonymous HIV testing, information on addiction treatment, condoms and assist in connecting clients to social and health services (Semaan et al., 2011; Ball, 2007). Although, the benefits of harm reduction are evident through reduction of accidental drug overdose and prevention of disease spread, some argue that a more conservative approach such as abstinence based approaches should be enforced. In this paper, I will discuss the controversy surrounding harm reduction clinics and its adherence to the Canadian Nurses Code of Ethics. In my opinion harm reduction programs provide an effective and ethical solution to the immense harm that result from the engagement in high risk behaviours.
Accidental drug overdose is one of the many extremely detrimental risks associated with injection drug use. According to a study by Marshall (2003) that analyzed death rates of injection drug users before and after the opening of a safe injection facility in Vancouver demonstrated the facility`s effectiveness through a comparison of the rates of fatal overdose before and after in the area of the clinic to rates before and after in another part of the city that the facility was not accessible. This study revealed that the fatal overdose rate in the area of the facility decreased by 35% after the opening whereas declined by only 9.3% in the other areas of the city (Marshall, 2011). Harm reduction programs such as safe injection sights prevent mortality from injection drug use by identifying factors that increase risk of mortality and educating the population about unsafe practices including use of drugs when alone , mixing of substances, not calling for emergency assistance in the event of overdose, unpredictable effects of using drugs following periods of abstinence or reduced use, and not sampling or checking drugs for lacing before injecting. Staff also provide emergency response when needed immediately, and may call for support from ambulance personnel in more severe cases. Emergency responses include providing oxygen and in cases of an overdose sometimes administer an opiate antagonist (Kerr, 2007).
Sharing of needles used by injection drug users contributes heavily to the spread of blood-borne diseases, accounting for almost one third of new HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa (Ball, 2007). Various studies support that blood-borne disease transmission and contraction are strongly linked to injection drug use. A study conducted by Semaan et al. that analyzed data of 10,301 persons who inject drugs...

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