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Issue Fifty Two

September 2017

The editorial by John Kleinsman reflects on how it is possible for people to reconcile two opposing views about premature death – the idea that a young person’s suicide is (rightly) seen as a tragedy while the assisted suicide of an elderly or disabled person is seen as ‘understandable’ or even desirable. It is argued that this ‘contradiction’ reveals a ‘functionalist’ societal narrative, one which leads to the problematic position that the dignity of some lives depends on a societal concession – the generosity or tolerance of society – rather than on their intrinsic human dignity.

The first article by Staff of the Nathaniel Centre is a response to the Health Select Committee Report suggestion that the legalisation of physician assisted suicide or euthanasia would not negatively affect the doctor-patient relationship or the roles of health professionals involved in the practice. It is argued, to the contrary, that such legislation would have a detrimental impact on the role of ‘doctors as healers’, that it contravenes medical ethics, and would undermine the trust of the elderly and disabled in their use of the health sector. It concludes that doctors must not and need not be involved in such practices and are included only to provide a cloak of medical respectability.

The second article summarises The Nathaniel Centre submission to the Ministry of Health Consultation on their strategy to prevent suicide. It notes that insufficient emphasis is allocated to some of the groups at particular risk of suicide in New Zealand. It also raises the issue of the potential negative impact of legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide on rates of non-assisted suicide.

The impact of an aging male population in prisons is discussed in an article written jointly by Staff of the Nathaniel Centre and experienced prison chaplain Richard Clement. Prisons are places for young, fit and aggressive men, but a number of changes, including longer sentences and stricter parole decisions, mean there are now greater numbers of older prisoners requiring intensive health care support.

In the final article on abortion, Amanda Bradley reflects on some of her personal and professional encounters with women who have experienced an abortion. One of the consequences of abortion can be a long-term impact on their mental well-being. The burden of grief or regret many carry can be relieved when it is shared and responded to with forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption and the mercy of God.

Amanda’s reflection is followed by a brief comment on post-abortion trauma and includes links to some support agencies in New Zealand.

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


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