Urgent change to end drug stigma, preventable deaths: ANMF

Wednesday, 01 February, 2023

Urgent change to end drug stigma, preventable deaths: ANMF

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has expressed its support for the recommendations resulting from the hearing into the death in custody of Aboriginal woman Veronica Nelson on 2 January 2020.

Victorian Coroner Simon McGregor exposed the failings of Australia’s carceral and clinical systems which he said contributed to Nelson’s preventable death.

Nelson died in custody after suffering from heroin withdrawal and an undiagnosed and potentially life threatening gastrointestinal condition called Wilkie’s syndrome.

Thirty-six years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s final report, McGregor’s forensic account of the events that preceded Nelson’s tragic death must trigger urgent cultural, systemic and societal change.

“Those with the power to implement change have a gravely important task — to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody always receive timely, appropriate care, medical treatment, and drug and alcohol withdrawal treatment, without discrimination,” the ANMF said.

McGregor concluded that harmful, outdated views towards those suffering drug withdrawal symptoms contributed to Nelson’s death and the ‘moral’ lens must be replaced by a health-based approach to drug and alcohol addiction and withdrawal.

“With the heaviest of hearts we send our sincerest condolences to Ms Nelson’s family, loved ones and friends. Ms Nelson’s suffering is unthinkable. Your loss is unimaginable. The failures that contributed to her death must be the catalyst for deep change in our legal, bail, remand, prison and health services,” the ANMF said.

Image credit: iStock.com/gorodenkoff

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