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February 06, 2006

"Cutting Edge" Medicine

This is simply beyond the pale. Feel the need to self-abuse? Some in the medical profession want to give you clean blades. And I'm not talking about shaving.

A professional nurses group is proposing that "self-harming" patients who are intent on mutilating themselves be given clean blades, bandages and "how-to" advice so they can cut themselves more safely.

The proposal for "safe" self-harm will be debated in April at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress and is expected to prove controversial.

"Safe self-harm"? Cutting yourself more safely? Is this what the medical community has come to?

Current practice mirrors what most people expect of the medical profession - stopping anyone from harming himself and removing any sharp objects that could be used to cut the skin.
Not to mention, quite possibly, psychological help and counselling. The new proposal is basically throwing in the towel.
According to the National Mental Health Association, self-harm - also termed self-mutilation, self-injury or self-abuse - is defined as the "deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one's self. It includes: 1) cutting, 2) scratching, 3) picking scabs or interfering with wound healing, 4) burning, 5) punching self or objects, 6) infecting oneself, 7) inserting objects in body openings, 8) bruising or breaking bones, 9) some forms of hair-pulling, as well as other various forms of bodily harm. These behaviors, which pose serious risks, may by symptoms of a mental health problem that can be treated."
But if they won't get help, these nurses would like you to be comfortable in your mental illness. They're even likely willing to take other peoples' money to pay for it.
RCN's Jeremy Bore supports the proposal. "We should give patients clean blades and a clean environment to self-harm and then access to good-quality dressings," he said

"My instinct is that it is better to sit with the patient and talk to them while they are self-harming."

Well, of course. That would make sense. Except Mr. Bore isn't interested in talking them out of it.
"We should definitely give advice on safer parts of the body to cut. It could get to the stage where we could have a discussion with the patient about how deep the cuts were going to be and how many."

One would hope it would get to the stage of telling them where to go for help. He doesn't mention that.

And the RCN maps out quite nicely the slippery slope we're currently on.

Ian Hulatt, mental health adviser for the RCN, sees a parallel to the similar proposal to give hypodermic needles to drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS through shared needles.

Not that far from free needles to allow you to slowly kill yourself to free blades to allow your mental condition to progress (but comfortably).
According to one unnamed source, some nurses already do what is being proposed. "We may not like someone self-harming, but they are going to do it whether we like it or not and we will need to deal with the problems afterwards."

You know what I never hear suggested? "Kids are going to smoke anyway; let's give them safe cigarettes." Unless you think smoking is a sign of mental disease, does it really make sense to ban a legal action while supporting the habits of junkies and cutters? I've never really bought into the argument that since someone is going to do something anyway, that we should make them comfortable in their destruction and provide them the tools to feed their habit. The medical profession pledges to do no harm, not less harm.

Fortunately, there are those speaking out against this.

The UK's Patient Association has come out against the proposal. "Supplying individuals who self-harm with blades cannot be good for them," said the group's director of communications. "Nurses should not be supporting patients to self-harm. By giving self-harmers the tools they need, the nurses could be seen as encouraging individuals to harm themselves. We should be doing something to discourage this behavior."

And that logic follows for all the other giveaways; needles, condoms, whatever. We encourage those things we enable. This is an issue of co-dependence, not compassion.

Posted by Doug at February 6, 2006 02:41 PM

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If you're going to race motorcycles down the Baja peninsula, at least have the good sense to wear a freakin' helmet, you silly people.

Posted by: s9 at February 7, 2006 12:25 AM