VICTORIA, BC November 18, 2016 – Contrary to what BC Premier Christy Clark said in Ottawa this week – the fentanyl crisis has “taken everyone by surprise” – the reality is that the BC government was warned many times of a burgeoning opioid crisis in seniors care, starting as early as 2008.
Premier Christy Clark also blamed “illegal fentanyl from China,” diverting attention from the roots and reality of the fentanyl crisis — proliferate, deliberate over-prescribing of dangerous and deadly prescription opioids, sanctioned by her government and by the medical professions funded by her government.
Clark’s effort to focus attention on illicit drugs from China completely avoids a key finding of the report issued earlier last week by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)[i] which found that the greatest number of hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning (overdoses) were experienced by seniors.
Seniors are not soliciting illegal drugs on the street. Most seniors in care do not self-administer these lethal narcotic drugs. They are being administered by health care providers who often ignore concerns raised by patients, families and even other doctors, as our own case files show.
Opioids administered illegally and secretly to seniors
For the past decade, fentanyl and other opioids have routinely been forced on seniors in care, often secretly. It is against the law for any health care provider in Canada to administer drugs without consent (of the patient or their substitute decision maker, if the patient is incapable). Yet this deadly practice continues unabated, and ignored by authorities.
Elder Rights Defenders has documented evidence of efforts by scores of families over the past decade who have pleaded with the government and health care authorities to stop the deadly practice of irresponsible prescribing of pharmaceutical drugs, including opioids, in seniors care.
Police, the coroner’s office, and other government authorities have also been made aware of unlawful drugging of seniors in care but they too have refused to protect vulnerable seniors or to help families who try to stop this deadly abuse.
In one example, staff at a Victoria, BC nursing home tried to stop paramedics from attending to an elderly woman suspected of suffering an opioid overdose. Visiting family members had called 9-1-1 upon finding their mother inexplicably unresponsive.
Paramedics fought off aggressive nursing staff in order to administer naloxone to this woman, saving her life. After the elderly woman recovered in hospital, the Emergency physician told the family that he did not understand why she had been administered “terminal sedation – when she had no pain or terminal illness.”
Records later confirmed that the nursing home doctor and staff had surreptitiously administered lethal doses of opioids. Yet there have been no consequences for the nursing home doctor or the care facility/staff, and the BC Ministry of Health continues to spend untold thousands of taxpayer dollars in the courts in an effort to silence this woman’s story.
In another case, massive doses of fentanyl and other opioids were administered to a Nanaimo Hospital patient, despite warnings from three other doctors and a pharmacist, and against the objections of her son (who was also his mother’s legal substitute decision maker).
The woman died two weeks later. In February 2016, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons stated, in their response to a complaint filed by the woman’s son, that the prescribing doctor did nothing wrong. However, in April 2016, the Patient Care Quality Review Board found that the doctor had acted in contravention of the law by arbitrarily usurping the son’s legal authority to consent to these drugs (which is a criminal act of battery). But, in the final result, the prescribing doctor suffered no consequences whatsoever.
Clark government now tries to take credit for illuminating nightmare created under their watch
At least a decade ago, the fentanyl epidemic spilled onto the streets, courtesy of “diversion” from the health care system, and now infects the entire country. This is not a surprise. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported the problem of fentanyl diversion in 2007.
Despite various propaganda campaigns by government agencies, both provincial and federal, by the medical industry and unions, and by other vested interests, all claiming they have cleaned up the proliferation of narcotics prescriptions in seniors care, it continues unabated.
At the federal – provincial summit on the “fentanyl crisis” held in Ottawa this week, the BC Health Minister claimed BC had “succeeded” in warning the rest of the country about the growing crisis in fentanyl. Health Minister Terry Lake declared, “I think the lights are coming on,” and said “BC is the distant early warning system” of the fentanyl crisis.
A more accurate analysis would be that the politicians, the health care industry and authorities can no longer hide the growing number of dead bodies and broken families as easily as they have over the past decade – and now they seek to absolve themselves of any responsibility.
Elder Rights Defenders issues an open invitation to all interested parties as well as to the public to inquire about our case files filled with evidence of the steadily growing proliferation of prescription opioids that has been permitted, and even encouraged, to flourish in Canada for over a decade, while the horrendous consequences were, and largely still are, suppressed and hidden from the public by government agencies and authorities.
We strive to prevent the massive public relations smokescreen that has been, and still is, clouding the public’s understanding of what fuels this deadly menace of secret, unlawful and negligent prescribing of opioids responsible for killing young and old alike.
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[i] Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits Due to Opioid Poisoning in Canada https://www.cihi.ca/en/types-of-care/pharmaceutical-care-and-utilization/13-canadians-hospitalized-each-day-for-opioid