May-June 2018

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Lessons from Belgium

Editors: David A. Jones, Chris Gastmans, Calum MacKellar
ISBN: 978-1107198869
Price: £95.00
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Year: 2017
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Lessons from Belgium is part of a series of books from Cambridge University Press where the focus is to ground theoretical debate in the realities of law and medical practice. The book does precisely this and more. Although the book does not restrict itself to the situation in Belgium, Belgium provides the largest body of empirical research as indicated by the editors. However, the authors draw upon this research not simply to describe realities. In addition the book presents a critical consideration of how changes in the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide impact society.

Significantly, the book presents diverse ethical viewpoints ensuring that this consideration is balanced. This makes the book a necessary resource where there is debate on the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide. Important lessons can be drawn on issues concerning transparency, proper and accurate reporting, the normalisation of the practice of euthanasia, the problem of neglect in areas of end of life care and palliative care. The book also deals with deep sedation as an accepted treatment, organ donation and euthanasia, and concerns of unwarranted developments in euthanasia practice as well as extension of euthanasia to children and people with mental health issues. The book is set out in four parts: Part I deals with legislation in Belgium alongside other jurisdictions of Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the USA. Part II explores the practice of euthanasia in connection with end of life care from continuous sedation to palliative care, and the vexed question of organ donation and death by euthanasia. Part III considers particular vulnerable groups including children, people with dementia and people with disabilities as well as those suffering from psychiatric illnesses and those who are ‘tired of life’. Part IV draws the discussion to a close with a look at some consequences of the Belgium legislation on euthanasia and its effect on culture and normalisation of the practice. The list of contributing authors is impressive and it demonstrates expertise in bioethics, philosophy, law and clinical practice. The last word perhaps should go to Kevin Fitzpatrick who died before completing his chapter on disability and euthanasia, and to whom the book is dedicated. Fitzpatrick draws attention to the hard cases where the fear of living with disability and dependence seems to justify euthanasia. As Fitzpatrick notes, key to the debate is the question of dependency. Conversations around euthanasia and assisted suicide that avoid discussion of disability, attitudes to dependency, support, interdependence and how to adjust to the realities of living a life of disability, never address the roots of the question. Fitzpatrick ends his chapter with a quote from Baroness Helena Kennedy that sums up what this book and the lessons it draws is all about: the conversation about euthanasia and assisted suicide is ‘about the kind of society we want to live in’.

Pia Matthews, St Mary’s University, Twickenham

Mary. Flower of Humanity

Author: Chiara Lubich
Editors: Brendan Leahy, Judith Povilus
ISBN: 978-1—905039-34-0
Price: £9.95
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Year: 2017
Publisher: New City

This book is a collection of texts on Mary as contemplated by Chiara Lubich, who was a founder of the movement called the ‘Work of Mary’, at different points of her life. Chiara offers many insights for understanding the person of Mary, her role in the divine economy of salvation, and suggests the ways to establish an intimate relationship with Mary and imitate her life.

One of the key ideas of this book is the call to re-live Mary, to appropriate her virtues, and to become Mary ourselves instead of just studying or venerating her. ‘Mary’ is one of the characteristic features of the spirituality of unity of the Focolare Movement, but she is also a heart of Chiara’s spiritual doctrine.

We find many challenging, intriguing and fresh ideas about Mary in this collection. There is a very interesting reflection on Mary’s attitude on Calvary. As Chiara reflects, with her first ‘yes’ at the Annunciation she had consented to become the mother of Jesus. With her second ‘yes’ at the foot of the cross she let go that maternity in order to welcome, in the place of Jesus, John and in him all of humanity. From Mary, desolate, we learn the way of holiness, we ‘learn how to lose’ all that is not God in order to live with solemnity in the present moment. Chiara describes Mary as ‘the Word totally lived because she fulfilled God’s plan for her’, that is, she generated in and with Christ a new humanity. Now every Christian is called to be another Mary and generate the Word in themselves, let Christ be born and grow in them and others. Mary became the mother of a ‘Christified’ humanity, fruit of redemption. To be another Mary, it is necessary to embrace the forsaken Jesus and the wound of his abandonment so that the risen Jesus, the new person, can shine out in us.

In addition, Chiara describes how else we can become a little Mary. We should appropriate the word ‘yes’ which was an attitude she always had in life. Yes to God, to all that he asked of her. Yes to his will. Mary is ‘the perfect Christian’ because she did not live her own life but allowed the law of God to live in her. Besides doing well the will of God, we should always bring Jesus in our midst into the world. Moreover, Mary teaches us the secret of true interreligious dialogue: to be for others an ‘emptiness of love’ that allows God to pass through.

In this book one will also find many interesting ideas about Mary as the Mother of the Church, about Mary as a sign of contradiction, Mary and interreligious dialogue, Mary and charisms and other. As Chiara writes, ‘The fruit of Mary’s yes, of her saying “I want it”, is Jesus. Therefore, to honour her, let’s repeat with her, “I want it!”’

Yulia Rozumna, University of Nottingham

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Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017


Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Rev. Professor Michael Hayes editor of The Pastoral Review.

Many friends and readers of The Pastoral Review and The Tablet will have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hayes early on Easter Saturday.   Read More


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