The volume begins its exploration of discerning moral limits to modern high-technology medicine with a consensus statement born of the conversations among its contributors. The seventeen essays use the example of critical care, because it offers one of the few areas in medicine where there are good clinical predictive measures regarding the likelihood of survival. As a result, the health care industry can with increasing accuracy predict the probability of saving lives—and at what cost.
Because critical care involves hard choices in the face of finitude, it invites profound questions about the meaning of life, the nature of a good death, and distributive justice. For those who identify the prize of human life as immortality, the question arises as to how much effort should be invested in marginally postponing death. In a secular culture that presumes that individuals live only once, and briefly, there is an often-unacknowledged moral imperative to employ any means necessary to postpone death. The conflict between the free choice of individuals and various aspirations to equality compounds the challenge of controlling medical costs while also offering high-tech care to those who want its possible benefits. It forces society to confront anew notions of ordinary versus extraordinary, and proportionate versus disproportionate, treatment in a highly technologically structured social context.
This cluster of discussions is enriched by five essays from Jewish, Orthodox Christian, and Protestant perspectives. Written by premier scholars from the United States and abroad, these essays will be valuable reading for students and scholars of bioethics and Christian moral theology.
Today in every corner of the world men and women are willing to kill others in the name of "realism" and under the guise of race, class, quality of life, sex, property, nationalism, security, or religion. We justify these killings by either excluding certain humans from our definition of personhood or by invoking a greater good or more pressing value.
Kavanaugh contends that neither alternative is acceptable. He formulates an ethics that opposes the intentional killing not only of medically "marginal" humans but also of depersonalized or criminalized enemies. Offering a philosophy of the person that embraces the undeveloped, the wounded, and the dying, he proposes ways to recover a personal ethical stance in a global society that increasingly devalues the individual.
Kavanaugh discusses the work of a range of philosophers, artists, and activists from Richard Rorty and Søren Kierkegaard to Albert Camus and Woody Allen, from Mother Teresa to Jack Kevorkian. His approach is in stark contrast to that of writer Peter Singer and others who believe that not all human life has intrinsic moral worth. It will challenge philosophers, students of ethics, and anyone concerned about the depersonalization of contemporary life.
Over the course of four interconnected, tightly reasoned arguments, Dyck takes readers from a basic concern for human suffering -- the main focus of those who support assisted suicide -- to the deeper truths of life's inherent worth. Dyck begins by examining the arguments of some physicians, moral philosophers, and theologians for making assisted suicide available. He also discusses the alternative practice of comfort-only care, explaining why it differs morally from assisted suicide and euthanasia. Dyck then explores and defends the moral structure underlying the West's long tradition of homicide law as well as current law against assisted suicide and euthanasia -- laws designed to protect both freedom and human life. Finally, Dyck shows that the moral structure undergirding our system of law is compatible with the views of Christianity, and he points to certain Christian beliefs that provide comfort and hope to those who are suffering, dying, or experiencing the death of loved ones.
Throughout the book, Dyck staunchly maintains that assisted suicide is unacceptable in any and all circumstances. The practice denies terminally ill patients the possibility of recovery and robs them ofthe chance to rethink the meaning of their lives or to achieve spiritual growth. Furthermore, because it undermines the shared moral structure that makes community possible, assisted suicide bodes ill for society as a whole. "Life's Worth" is a must-read for anyone grappling with this hotly debated issue.
This excellent text offers a broad-based introduction to the field of bioethics. Scott Rae and Paul Cox provide an assessment of various secular approaches to bioethics that are particularly influential today, and develop a framework for a Christian approach meant to assist people in addressing the many pressing issues in the field.
Though touching on the numerous debated issues in bioethics, the authors are primarily concerned here to give an account of the central theological notions crucial to an informed Christian perspective on bioethics. Their work makes a stimulating and substantial contribution to a Christian bioethic that can effectively engage the pluralistic culture in which health care is practiced today.
As a theological ethicist and progressive Catholic, Lisa Sowle Cahill does not want to cede the "religious perspective" to fundamentalists and the pro-life movement, nor does she want to submit to the gospel of a political liberalism that champions individual autonomy as holy writ. In Theological Bioethics, Cahill calls for progressive religious thinkers and believers to join in the effort to reclaim the best of their traditions through jointly engaging political forces at both community and national levels.
In Cahill's eyes, just access to health care must be the number one priority for this type of "participatory bioethics." She describes a new understanding of theological bioethics that must go beyond decrying injustice, beyond opposing social practices that commercialize human beings, beyond painting a vision of a more egalitarian future. Such a participatory bioethics, she argues, must also take account of and take part in a global social network of mobilization for change; it must seek out those in solidarity, those involved in a common calling to create a more just social, political, and economic system.
During the past two decades Cahill has made profound contributions to theological ethics and bioethics. This is a magisterial and programmatic statement that will alter how the religiously inclined understand their role in the great bioethics debates of today and tomorrow that yearn for clear thinking and prophetic wisdom.