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30 August 2017

The Centre for Health Law and Society hosted the CHLS Annual Public Lecture: The Future of Human Mortality: Death, Technology and the Law by Dr John Troyer.

Dr John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, UK. His research is interdisciplinary and focuses on contemporary memorialization practices, postmortem bioethics, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. He is author of Technologies of the human corpse, MIT Press, forthcoming 2018. He is also a theatre director and installation artist with extensive experience in site-specific performance across the United States and Europe. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk and The Future Cemetery Project.


Since the mid-19th century, the dead body in the Western imagination has been inextricably linked with popular fascination and industrial age human technologies. One current, dominant discussion regarding the dead body-to-technology relationship focuses on the ecologically sustainable disposal of dead bodies and transforming the funeral into a natural or green process. What the 21st century concept of natural death suggests is a 19th century pre-industrial age model that often misses the point: disposition of the dead body, by whatever means, is a humanly invented practice. A new approach to death, dying, and the dead body is only possible if we come to understand our increasingly technologically mediated mortality and its impact on the law. The future of human mortality is much less about whether or not it can be ‘cured.’ The real question is whether and if that scenario is desirable

November 2016

CHLS Associate, Hannah Robert, launched her new book, Paved with Good Intentions: Terra Nullius, Aboriginal Land Rights and Settler-Colonial Law(Halstead Press, 2016) at a book launch held at Readings bookstore in Carlton, Melbourne. It was launched by UTS historian, Anna Clark. The book presents a legal history examining settler-colonial ideas of Aboriginal land rights, property and ‘wasteland’.

For further details about the book and the launch, see the La Trobe Law School Blog.

July 2016

CHLS hosted a one-day research seminar on 27 July 2016 at La Trobe University’s City Campus on Reproductive Loss: Ethical Social and Legal issues on 27 July 2016 [view flyer here].

The seminar brought together key researchers and stakeholders working in the area to explore how women and their families experience reproductive loss. Such loss may arise in different ways including miscarriage, termination and stillbirth, as well as embryo and newborn loss.

For example, it is estimated that 1 in 4 known pregnancies ended in miscarriage. Available data shows that there are over 2,500 perinatal deaths registered in Australia per annum, which includes stillbirths and neonatal deaths within the first 28 days of life. What evidence is available also points to over half of women of reproductive age experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. While there is no national collection of data on termination of pregnancy, it is estimated that approximately 30% of Australian women will decide to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.

The keynote speaker at the seminar was Dr Sheelagh McGuinness, University of Bristol, UK, who was a CHLS international visitor in July 2016.

Dr McGuinness spoke about a UK-funded project that she is shortly to commence work on entitled: Death before Birth: Understanding, informing and supporting the choices made by people who have experienced miscarriage, termination, and stillbirth

Attendees at the seminar heard presentations by speakers on topics such as how we should conceptualise foetal personhood; how to deal with the disposal of pregnancy remains; the experience and management of grief; state recognition through registration; the role of health professionals; and the provision of counselling, support and advocacy for those who have experienced such loss.

CHLS will be developing a research program on Reproductive Loss beginning in 2017.

CHLS International Research Visitors 2016

Professor John Coggon (University of Bristol)


John Coggon is Professor of Law at the University of Bristol and an Honorary Member of the UK’s Faculty of Public Health. His primary research and teaching interests are in Public Health Ethics and Law, on which his leading publication is the book What Makes Health Public? (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Prior to working in Bristol, Professor Coggon was Professor of Law and the Philosophy of Public Health at the University of Southampton. His works examine conceptual and normative questions regarding public and global health broadly conceived, as well as narrower matters within the context of health care law.


Professor Coggon presented on his current research in public health law and ethics at a CHLS seminar.

Title: Where and How Does Global Health Fit into Public Health Ethics and Law?

Public health as a field of study and practice draws from the broadest range of expertise, spans across sectors, and engages and impacts a huge variety of actors and agencies. Classically, public health activity entails social coordination. This implies a need for law and governance, and thus a central role for governmental agencies and regulators. As such, as studies in public health ethics and law have developed, ethico-legal concerns have come to be seen as a part of public health itself, rather than wholly separable areas of critical analysis. Similarly, globalisation and global phenomena been incorporated within understandings of public health: it is widely argued that national public health cannot be considered in a vacuum. The expansive and transnational nature of public health raises various questions about how ‘public’ national global health can be, with attendant ethico-legal questions about matters such as legitimate authority, accountability, and effective governance. Looking at public health through both local and global lenses, this paper examines how ethico-legal analysis invites us to conceive and address problems and opportunities for policy and practice.

Dr Sheelagh McGuinness (University of Bristol)


Sheelagh McGuinness was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol’s School of Law in 2015. Prior to this she held appointments at the University of Birmingham and Keele University. Sheelagh is interested in the fields of health law, law and reproduction, and law and gender. She has published across these areas in law, ethics, and health care journals. In September 2016 Sheelagh will start working on an ESRC funded project examining issues of reproductive loss entitled ‘Death before Birth: Understanding, informing and supporting the choices made by people who have experienced miscarriage, termination, and stillbirth’. Her public service roles include being a member of the Independent Ethics and Governance Council of UK Biobank and a member of the Medical Ethics Committee of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Sheelagh is on the editorial board of Feminist Legal Studies.


Whilst a CHLS visitor in July, Dr McGuinness presented on her research on reproductive loss which is linked to her work as an investigator on the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) research grant: Death Before Birth: Understanding, Informing and Supporting the Choices made by People who have Experienced Miscarriage, Termination, and Stillbirth

To coincide with her visit, CHLS hosted a one day research seminar on Reproductive Loss: Ethical Social and Legal Issues [view flyer here].

Dr McGuinness also presented at a CHLS seminar on her research in the area of abortion law reform.

Title: ‘A guerilla strategy for a pro-life England?’

Access to safe and legal abortion is integral to women’s sovereignty over their own bodies. In this paper, Dr McGuiness examines current anti-abortion strategising in England. She suggests that the range of anti-abortion activities can be understood as part of a broader ‘guerrilla strategy’ to restrict access to abortion care. Such an approach focuses on capitalising on the marginalisation of abortion services and areas of legal ambiguity to make abortion care ‘uncomfortable’ to both access and deliver. Guerrilla strategies rely for success on the marginalisation of abortion care (both physically and ideologically) from mainstream medical practice and flourish within a legal framework that relies on physicians as gatekeepers. The paper ends with a consideration of how we might respond to these anti-abortion strategies; in particular paying attention to the ways we can embrace and encourage provision of services to women through supporting and improving the conditions of the important professional bodies needed to deliver these services.