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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Alberta legislation aims to improve gunshot and stab wound reporting

A new piece of legislation making it mandatory for health care facilities and emergency medical technicians to report gunshot and stab wounds was introduced in the Alberta Legislature today.

“This proposed legislation supports our government’s commitment to safer communities because the information police receive as a result of this legislation can help them prevent further violence, injury or death,” said Fred Lindsay, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security. “Gunshot and stab wounds pose a public safety concern and this Bill identifies and addresses this important public safety matter.”

Bill 46 the Gunshot and Stab Wound Mandatory Disclosure Act deals with individuals who are dropped off or show up at emergency rooms or health centres seeking treatment for gunshot or stab wounds. The proposed legislation ensures police would only be provided with limited information, such as the patient’s name, location of health facility and type of wound, not the individual’s health details.

“This Act will provide clarity regarding what information to disclose to police when individuals are treated for gunshot and stab wounds,” said Dave Quest, MLA for Strathcona who introduced the legislation. “It will balance a patient’s right to privacy of health information with law enforcement’s need for information to help keep the public safe.”

Under the proposed legislation, gunshot wounds must be reported. Stab wounds must also be reported unless the stab wound is self-inflicted or unintentionally inflicted. This will ensure individuals with mental health issues are not "stigmatized" or "criminalized" and will exclude those hurt by accident. Individuals with mental health issues who are treated for self-inflicted wounds can, however, be institutionalized and medicated against their will under the Alberta Mental Health Act.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 5, 2009 | Permalink


Since this legislation is only intended to give police another tool to fight crime, and since I can't imagine how or why they would abuse this information or even that they would take an interest in something clearly not criminal, I have no initial objection to this proposal.

It's a common misconception that cops have nothing to do much of the time and that some of them harass citizens out of sheer boredom. On the contrary; they're understaffed and overworked. We would need to double or triple the police roster to bring their numbers to optimal levels.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-05 6:17:20 PM

Overworked? Compared to whom?

Guys who work on drilling rigs do physical labour for 12 hours, rest for 12, then repeat...

Construction workers get 10 minute breaks, twice a day. The rest of the time, they're lifting, climbing, hammering...

Loggers carry chain saws up hills, climb over deadfalls, wrestle with winch lines...

When I hear about cops, and nurses, and teachers being overworked, I sometimes tear up. Their plight is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Posted by: dp | 2009-05-05 6:47:57 PM

The "unseen consequence" of this is that criminals suffering from gunshot or stab wounds may not seek medical attention. Should we care?

Also, the government is asking doctors and nurses to become informants. Does that negatively effect the patient-doctor relationship? And, again, should we care?

I wonder if the mentally ill avoid hospitals for non-mental health related problems out of a general fear they might be institutionalized?

This legislation raises interesting questions for me.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-05 6:53:40 PM

dp, that is good. Like most people, the police are interested in making their lives easier. Sometimes the result is good no doubt. But sometimes it is clearly bad. The police have a monopoly on the legal use of force, so giving them ANY new tools should be questioned.

Matthew, wouldn't it be possible for doctors and nurses to volunteer this information to police?

Posted by: TM | 2009-05-05 7:01:18 PM

See? I didn't know that we in Canada don't do what's absolutely mandatory in the US. Every gunshot wound, etc. has to be reported to the police.

Just goes to show what a backward country this dysfunctional "country" "Canada" really is.

Posted by: Werner Patels | 2009-05-05 7:45:04 PM

Werner, I think we are backwards compared to the US in many ways. But I wonder how exactly this legislation will improve things. Maybe it will, but how?

Posted by: TM | 2009-05-05 8:55:04 PM

I honestly think this is stupid and could end up causing deaths. Anybody should feel free to go to the doctor without worrying about the doctor or hospital calling the cops on them. What's next? Will the cops give hospitals breathylizer machines so they can report to police if someone comes in injured in a car accident who may have had a drink or two? Will that person just decide not to go to hospital? What if they have internal bleeding? This is a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality, and a bad idea.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-05-06 6:56:31 AM

Just because their workload is not as physical as an oilpatch worker's does not mean they have enough officers to police effectively, dp. Or did you think that one office worker can easily enter 100,000 sheets of data per hour, simply because the job doesn't require coveralls and a hard hat?

That said, nurses are largely responsible for their own staff shortfalls. Their demand of a cap on immigrant nurses has hurt the government's ability to quickly adjust to rises and falls in demand, as has their absurdly militant politicking. Of course, most female-dominated unions are like this.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-06 7:01:33 AM

Matthew, wouldn't it be possible for doctors and nurses to volunteer this information to police?

I doubt it; it would seem to violate doctor-patient confidentiality. A specific exemption would have to be made before even voluntary disclosure would be possible, and as they say, "While you're at it..."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-06 7:02:42 AM

"Matthew, wouldn't it be possible for doctors and nurses to volunteer this information to police?" -- TM

I'm sure that's the practice, TM. This new law is perhaps an effort to address the privacy concerns around that practice in light of new privacy legislation. Or it's just an attempt to make manditory a voluntary system.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-06 7:58:28 AM

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