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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Birth control call for methadone
Methadone being poured into cup
Mr McNeil said the move would reduce the risks to children
A Labour MSP has called for contraception to be added to methadone to prevent addicts having children.

Greenock MSP Duncan McNeil was speaking at Holyrood during a debate on the harm caused to families by drugs.

He urged ministers to take radical action - including adding an oral contraceptive to the supplies of methadone given to addicts.

A Scottish Executive spokesman told the BBC Scotland news website: "We have absolutely no plans to do this."

Mr McNeil's call follows the death last year of two-year-old Derek Doran who drank methadone belonging to his parents.

"Why are we in a situation where so many of those who are addicted to drugs are having children?", he said.

As a first step, we need to explore putting some form of oral contraception in methadone
Duncan McNeil
Greenock MSP

"We know there are dangers of HIV and Aids, that there are dangers to the mother and child from a difficult pregnancy.

"As a first step, we need to explore putting some form of oral contraception in methadone, or using other methods.

"That way, we could reduce this problem and prevent some of those children coming to harm."

He later said he was not advocating that contraceptives in methadone should be compulsory but that women should be "strongly advised" to take it.

'Bizarre suggestion'

"We need to ensure, if possible, that as few children as possible are born into those circumstances," he said.

"I don't think it's a good idea that when you're addicted to drugs, you should start a family."

Duncan McNeil
Mr McNeil made his call during a debate on drug harm to families

Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis said: "This is a bizarre suggestion which is impractical and almost certainly illegal.

"The way forward is to support people with drug misuse problems, not to have a state programme of contraception."

SNP MSP Fiona Hyslop said: "The statements we heard in parliament today were extreme, wrong and unworkable."

Tory leader Annabel Goldie added: "Anyone coming forward for assistance with their drug addiction needs positive help, not barriers put in their way."

A Scottish Drugs Forum spokeswoman said: "Methadone is known to actually increase fertility and therefore people on this prescription need to be advised of such."

Rosemary Burnett, of Amnesty International Scotland, said the move could never be implemented as it would contravene Article 8 of the Human Rights Act - which guarantees people's right to a private and family life.

'Completely outrageous'

A Liberty spokesman said the organisation had grave concerns about Mr McNeil's comments.

He said: "It's completely outrageous that one would interfere with a person's treatment in this way, perhaps even encouraging some not to continue with methadone treatment and instead return to a life of heroin and crime to fund their habit.

"It is also outrageous as it would be a gross interference with people's reproductive rights."

Glasgow film-maker David Graham Scott - a former addict who took methadone for about 17 years - described Mr McNeill's proposal as "too severe".

However, he added that he had witnessed the harrowing suffering of addicts' children.

During the debate, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said she was giving "serious consideration" to drug testing as part of possible contracts between parents and the agencies involved.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has demanded ministers investigate alternative approaches to helping addicts - including prescribing heroin.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch reaction to Duncan McNeil's call



SEE ALSO:
Addicts' children 'to come first'
08 May 06 |  Scotland
Drug tests for parents discussed
20 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Child concern over drugs problem
07 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Dead toddler had drunk methadone
05 Mar 06 |  Scotland
McConnell call over heroin girl
18 Feb 06 |  Scotland


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