BC Indigenous Drug Users Describe Pattern of Forced Discharges From ED
March 17, 2023
In 2011, public health researchers in Vancouver began conducting interviews with people who use drugs and had either been discharged from an emergency department (ED) or left against medical advice (AMA). More than a decade in the making, the recently published findings are a stark picture of anti-Indigenous racism and systemic refusal to treat pain-and of how little has changed.
Between December 2011 and February 2013, 30 participants from the Vancouver Injection Drug Users and AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate Exposure to Survival Services studies-both of which have been running in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) for over 20 years-gave interviews about their ED discharge experiences. But a painstaking academic approval process was compounded by the onset of the overdose crisis in British Columbia, then the pandemic, delaying completion and publication of the research until February 2023.
Canada's universal health care coverage varies by province, but ED treatment and medication are intended to be available to everyone at no cost. Some of the ED admissions were related to drug use-like injection infections or withdrawal-but not all. Participants overwhelmingly reported being turned away for so-called "drug-seeking behavior," or because of their Indigenous ethnicity.