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Front cover of a May edition of New Zealand's Catholic national newspaper Front cover of a May edition of New Zealand's Catholic national newspaper 

New Zealand Bishops' Nathaniel bioethics centre releases May report

A report by the New Zealand Bishops' bioethics centre discusses topics such as the country's upcoming referendums, suicide in young people and the ethics behind vaccines.

By Vatican News

The August edition of the “Nathaniel Report” by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Nathaniel Centre for bioethics, has been made available online so as to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures. This month, the report focuses on scrutiny of the euthanasia and cannabis referendums being held at the same time as the 17 October general election. It also takes a look at youth suicides and the moral issues raised by using a cell line from an aborted fetus to create a Covid-19 vaccine.

End of life choice act 2019

In one article, Dangerous and Unwise, Nathaniel Centre director John Kleinsman describes flaws in the End of Life Choice Act 2019, a referendum set to take place on assisted death (assisted suicide and euthanasia). John Kleinsman writes that this question:

"is no longer about the merits or the idea of assisted suicide and euthanasia – i.e. whether a case can be made for these practices. Rather, we have to decide, as a country, if we want a particular piece of law called the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (EOLC Act); a law that, if passed, cannot be changed or ‘fixed’; a law that, in its current state, is regarded by many lawyers, healthcare professionals and others as poorly drafted, dangerous and flawed". 

John Kleinsman highlights numerous problems in the Act, including describing how easily accessible euthanasia and assisted suicide would be for all. 

Legalising recreational cannabis

A second referendum coming up in New Zealand is on the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

"Up to 2019, the law treated cannabis as a criminal issue. However, in 2019 the Misuse of Drugs Act was amended so that possession offences could be treated as health issues instead of criminal, except where there is a clear public good to be gained from prosecution. Thus, while cannabis remains illegal, the police can use discretion in deciding how to respond to those who use, grow and/or supply it; whether to charge a person or steer them towards a health-based intervention. In reality, we have a form of ‘de-facto’ decriminalisation".

The article goes on to explain the current and past legal stances on possession of cannabis, as well as providing arguments as to why cannabis should not be legalised - taking into consideration legal, medical and racial factors.

Readers are offered resources to help them with both referendums, providing background information, key issues and information to consider when deciding how to vote.

Suicide in young people

In another article, Victoria University education lecturer Chris Bowden shares insights from in-depth research he carried out with young men who lost close friends through suicide.

" Between 2018-2019 there were an estimated 685 suicides in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The majority of these (n=498, 73%) were men. Suicide in men has been described as a 'silent epidemic' because of its high incidence, a lack of public awareness, and a lack of targeted gender-specific prevention and intervention strategies".

The article offers statistics on the number of deaths by suicide and the most affected ages. 

Chris Bowden conveys the different kinds of silence the young men described, and the different roles these silences played in their grief. The article also provides numerous helplines for people who may need help, for anything.

The ethics behind vaccines 

Finally, Australians Kevin McGovern and Kerri Anne Brussen look at the historical origins of vaccines and ask a critical moral question: “How would we respond if the only viable vaccine for Covid-19 was based on a cell line that used cells derived from aborted fetuses?” 

"Human cell lines are one type of cell line that supports the growth of COVID-19. One of the sources used for these cell cultures is tissue from deliberately aborted foetuses. This can pose a significant moral quandary for Catholics and others. Catholic teaching upholds the principle of the inviolability of human life and forbids direct abortion. What is more, Catholic teaching opposes the use of tissue from deliberately aborted foetuses.  On this matter, it is also worth noting that the use in medical research of human foetal tissue from elective abortions was restricted in the United States last year. Vaccines which have been produced using cell lines from deliberately aborted foetuses are often known as ethically compromised vaccines."

The article explains the science behind these cells being used for vaccinations as well as explores the morality behind refusing an  "ethically compromised vaccine" which would put hundreds of people at the risk of death by infecting them. The authors explain that the aim of being pro-life is, always, to save lives. As many as possible. 

09 September 2020, 18:10