“Splash Bill” (Bill M-210)

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Members of The Legislative Assembly of BC: Oppose Passage of the “Splash Bill” (BC Bill M-210)

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Bill M-210 would allow for the court-ordered testing of individuals for communicable diseases in the event that a first responder or Good Samaritan came into contact with their bodily fluid during the course of providing aid.  The passage and enforcement of this bill would have serious consequences, and would: (1) violate the right of citizens to privacy and bodily integrity guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (2) do so unnecessarily and with uncertain additional ramifications, (3) fuel the hysteria and stigma that currently surrounds HIV and Hep C exposure and transmission; and (3) have the potential to disproportionately affect young people and marginalized populations.

Violation of Right to Privacy

Court ordered testing would violate the Charter right to privacy and bodily integrity [[i]]. The public court process involved in the enforcement of this legislation could reveal the identity of the individual involved, and could lead to assumptions being made about the individual’s health status. The personal medical information derived from the test would also be indirectly communicated to the exposed individual, since prophylactic medication would be continued if the test results were positive. There are serious ramifications for the public knowledge of someone’s health status, especially in cases of highly stigmatized infections such as HIV. People who have HIV or are suspected of having HIV are actively discriminated against, and this information could potentially impact their employment or health insurance.

Assumptions That Are Not Based on Current Transmission Science

This bill does not clearly delineate a specific definition for what would comprise “contact” with bodily fluid. The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS defines in their Therapeutic Guidelines for Accidental Exposure [ii] that exposure to a communicable disease occurs in “[a]n event where blood or other potentially infectious body fluid inadvertently comes into contact with non-intact skin, mucous membranes, or subcutaneous tissue (via percutaneous injury)”.  Infectious bodily fluids defined in these guidelines include blood but importantly do not include other fluids such as saliva, urine, or vomit which are specifically listed in the guidelines as non-infectious body fluids.

Furthermore, mere “contact” with bodily fluids (including infectious bodily fluids) does not constitute a risk for transmission of HIV. For example, the guidelines outline 5 types of exposure which have negligible risk of transmission. These are (1) minor contact with non-infectious body fluid, (2) exposure of intact skin to small amounts of blood, (3) bites, (4) superficial scratches, (5) injuries from fights.  Even significant exposures such as needle-stick exposure to known HIV-positive blood carries a very small actual risk of transmission (0.3% risk) [ii].

Bill M-210 neither defines what body fluids may be classified of sufficient risk nor defines what may constitute contact with such body fluids. It also disregards the importance of obtaining consent for testing. It should be noted also that the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS guidelines explicitly state that “[t]esting cannot occur without consent”. This bill therefore has serious potential for misuse if enforced in cases of contact where risk of transmission of infectious agents is considered by health authorities to be negligible.

Effect on Marginalized Youth

Finally, this bill has the potential to be especially harmful to youth in British Columbia. Youth are already in positions of weakness in society. Youth are often wary and distrustful of health professionals and law enforcement due in part to this power dynamic.  LGBT youth, youth who are street-involved, and youth who inject drugs are especially susceptible to unequal power dynamics and discrimination. These young people are likely to be among those who would be targeted by this bill for forced testing, because of the assumption of risk for transmissible infections in these groups. This bill would exacerbate young peoples’ distrust of health care professionals who may fear getting forcefully tested for an infection against their will. Resultantly, the engagement of youth with healthcare and law enforcement may be compromised.

Enhanced Education and Counselling is the Best Course of Action

On the website of the MLA Norm Letnick, the member who is sponsoring this bill, the issues of “doubt” and “mental burden of uncertainty” of accidental exposures are listed as motivating factors for the introduction of this bill [iii]. While anxiety in such situations is often high, current exposure guidelines state that “treatment of a high anxiety level in the exposed person… [should be] reassurance counselling and education”.   YouthCO echoes this support for counselling and education in such situations, but forcefully opposes the notion that an individual’s rights can be violated in order to alleviate a “mental burden of uncertainty”, especially in cases where transmission risk is negligible.

In light of the misinformation surrounding this bill, YouthCO suggests better education on what is real and what is negligible risk, and sustained education of emergency workers on universal safety precautions which are intended preclude any chance of transmission (such training can be obtained free-of-charge from AIDS Vancouver).  YouthCO also speaks on behalf of those youth whose human rights would be violated by the enforcement of this bill. Bill M-210 would not add any necessary safety measures that are not already in place, and its passage would violate the rights of British Columbians.

Signed,

Staff & Board of Directors

YouthCO AIDS Society

Comments
2 Responses to ““Splash Bill” (Bill M-210)”
  1. Willamina says:

    this blog should be printed out and put on every school in the city

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  1. […] Private Member’s Bill M-210, the “Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act”, is drawing fire from BC AIDS organizations and the BC Civil Liberties […]



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