Is the proposed change to assisted dying legislation really about denying choice? Looking afresh at the harm principle

‘harm principle’ the philosopher John Stuart

Esther Rantzen is one of a number of well-known and well-regarded celebrities who have publicly declared their support for a change in the law on assisted dying. When a celebrity makes a pronouncement, many people stop and take notice even if the celebrity is not making any new arguments. Celebrity is persuasive. Esther Rantzen says that she appreciates all the arguments against assisted dying. Nevertheless, she thinks that people should be given a choice about how and when they want to die. In particular, she wants to spare her family from the painful memories of a bad death. She observes that, after all, we give dogs a painless death. Given the current prohibition on assisted dying under English law she has decided that if her treatment for stage four lung cancer does not improve her condition she may just ‘buzz off to Zurich.’

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When the AI tool has a name and the embryo a number

Pregnancy test

CHLOE is not only a popular girls name. CHLOE is also the name of a new AI-based decision support tool in use in a handful of fertility clinics. Developed by the Israeli company Fairtility, “Cultivating Human Life through Optimal Embryos” (CHLOE) has been promoted as a tool to, in the words of the company, help improve IVF outcomes by helping to determine the likelihood of an embryo becoming a viable pregnancy. CHLOE is used to monitor and analyse embryos so that embryologists can make ‘better decisions’ on which embryos to implant. The AI tool has been clinically tested on over 50,000 embryos and works by grading and giving a score to an embryo based on an algorithm. The AI tool has a name, CHLOE, the human being at his or her early stage has a number, is analysed, graded, and given a score for quality.

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The Season of Creation – (Faith) responses to (rapid) climate change

rapid climate chnage

There are clear signs e.g. herehere and here that rapid climate change is no longer a possibility that can be dismissed. Indeed, if the analogy of a boiling kettle being a tipping point that is preceded by fizzing as an indicator that the water is about to boil is relevant, current indications might mean that rapid and even runaway climate change is upon us.

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The Call of Creation

October 4th was the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecologists and animals. The day brought to an end the season the Catholic Church describes as “The Season of Creation”. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also chose that day to launch a considerably revised, new edition of its teaching document on the environment – The Call of Creation.

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Social justice – is there a conflict between Hayek’s liberalism and Catholic social thought?

Hayek

The term “social justice” leads to a lot of sabre rattling in Catholic social teaching circles. Greater attention to its meaning, including to some of the ambiguities about its meaning, might be helpful in promoting more fruitful discussion. Debates are often clouded by bringing F. A. Hayek’s disdain for the whole idea of social justice into the discussion. Supporters of a free economy, in the spirit of Hayek’s work, are therefore pitted against supporters of social justice in Catholic social thought. Constructive dialogue is impeded.

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Can we eat, drink and be merry this Christmas?

A quick google search will reveal that Pope Francis warns us almost every year about the commercialisation of Christmas. This year, for example, he was quoted as saying: “The Christmas tree and Nativity crèche should evoke the joy and the peace of God’s love and not the selfish indulgence of consumerism and indifference”. Of course, this message is not unique to Pope Francis: almost every Christian minister warns of this danger.

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