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Issue Fifty One

April. 2017

This issue’s editorial by Cynthia Piper and John Kleinsman challenges those who advocate further liberalisation of the abortion law so as to better allow women to exercise ‘free choice’. When, as happens now, many women are not given enough information, do not have access to independent counselling or support and find themselves coerced by family or circumstances, it is impossible to argue that they are in a position to make a free and fully informed choice. ‘Abortion on demand’ will only make this situation worse.     

The often tragic consequences of abortion are elaborated by Dawn de Witt. Her article outlines a disjunction between the ‘evidence’ that finds no impact on women’s mental health and the experience of counsellors who regularly encounter the grief, anger and depression of women who present often years after ‘choosing’ abortion. The consistent narrative is that many of these women felt coerced by families, circumstances, family narratives, stigma and sociocultural trends into having an abortion.   

We reprint Petrus Simons’ submission to the Health Select Committee Investigation into Ending One’s Life in New Zealand. Simons depicts the boundary provided by the current law as a ‘dike’ that exists to protect doctors and nurses while they carry out their healing work.

Margaret Somerville, meanwhile, describes how those opposed and in favour of legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide often use stories of ‘bad deaths’ or ‘good deaths’ to validate their arguments. A recent ‘bad euthanasia death’ story from the Netherlands further underscores the hazards of legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now incorporated into many products and procedures in our lives and it continues to expand and develop. It is envisaged by some people that AI technologies will soon be as capable as human beings in reasoning and problem solving. Lynne Bower and Deb Stevens explore the growth of AI while articulating and critiquing the notion of ‘instrumental rationality’ which has underpinned its development. Their conclusion - we need to pause and rethink the dominance of such an approach.

The issue of organ donation has also been raised in the media recently, with many commentators focussing on the shortage of organs available to the meet the needs of those awaiting transplants. The article by Tony Stephens describes the practices and processes involved in the donation of kidneys in New Zealand for both deceased and live donations. This is then followed by a short summary of Catholic teaching concerning organ donation written by staff of The Nathaniel Centre

We hope that you find something worthwhile in this issue to reflect on.


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