A nurse offers a defence of Insite, the safe drug injection clinic operating in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. What I find interesting is that contrary to expectations, Meera Bai’s work at the clinic is based on a very personal, explicitly Christian ethic:
I think that we are all extended grace by God and that we are all loved by God and made in the image of God. When we talk to addicts and we spend time with them, we see them as human, just like ourselves, and see glimpses of God in them because they were made in God’s image. … We’re clearly called in the bible to spend time with the marginalized and to protect those who are struggling. Many of these people have gone through incredible abuse in their childhood and throughout their lives. God, for us, as Christians, he’s a place where we can go where we don’t have to be ashamed.
I gave a talk at Ambrose University College [a private evangelical university], which is quite a big seminary in Calgary. It was a public lecture and they thought maybe 50 people would come, but 150 showed up. One of the people who came, he put up his hand and said, ‘I’m a donor for Ambrose and I was quite appalled that they were doing this talk. So I came here because I think this is wrong. But now I realize what Insite does and this is completely what Christ would be doing. If Jesus was here, he would be washing feet the same way.’
It’s refreshing, for me anyway, to see a forthright explanation of the relation of a Christian ethic to practice in a way that speaks to compassion and service. This is in contrast the cramped and blinkered view of many of my co-religionists, whom I suspect would expend much time finding biblical justification for stepping over drug addicts rather than facing up to the fact these are human beings in need.
Nurses (or other health care professionals, for that matter) don’t often speak publicly about the ways the life of the spirit informs and motivates their practice, though I suspect for many nurses faith plays an important role. The problem is, discussing the role faith plays in the provision of health care almost inevitably seems to come back to the debate around therapeutic abortion, which in turn has distorted and marginalized any real talk about the role of faith for both ourselves and our patients. I sometimes thinks this is the reason nurses are hesitant to discuss spirituality or the spiritual aspects of care — with or without organized religion — even when we, or more importantly, our patients need and want it.