Moral Medicine?

Moral Medicine?



On Moral Medicine:  Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics

Edited by M. Therese Lysaught and Joseph J. Cotva Jr. With Stephen E. Lammers and Allen Verhey

Publisher: Erdmans Michigan 3rd Edition 2012, 1,162 pp. ISBN:  978-0-8028-6601-1 no price marked


This book has been an important resource for those teaching and learning about bio-ethics.  This new edition offers new topics not previously considered:  children, people with mental illness, older people.

There are 156 chapters which take up 1,162 pages.  The book is produced in a large format but is clearly printed.

The chapters are organised in to six sections.  The first section deals with method and discusses the relationship between religion and medicine and theological and medical ethics.  The second section deals with Christianity and the social practice of healthcare in eight sections as a number of writers take us through the relationship of Christianity to social responsibility.  In in chapter three the reader is reminded of the inextricable relationship between Christianity and human wellbeing and flourishing.  In chapter four, six sections explore some key areas of practice including parish nursing.  In section three entitle ‘patients and professionals’ we are asked to explore the nature of professions; the patient physician relationship; the nature of personhood and embodiment and the care of patients and their suffering.

In section four we look at mental illness, ageing, disability, research ethics and stem cell research.  The final two sections (section five ‘the beginning of life’ and section seven ‘the end of life’ deal with the sanctity of life; contraception; assisted reproductive technology; abortion; genetics and a range of issues associated with our understanding of the nature and choices that we may or may not have around death).

There is no index to this volume.  The editors demonstrate a sophisticated and practical understanding of the nature of teaching and in this area the complex inter-relationships between theory and pastoral practice.  This skill is demonstrated in the quality and consistency of the writing and the ways in which each of the individual authors pay careful attention to the literature and constantly push their reader on into further areas for study and research.

The English reader ought to be aware of the significant differences in both medicine and religion between America and Europe.  However this should not detract from the richness and usefulness of theological reflection that is present in this volume as the individual authors struggle with how best to make sense of a range of ethical issues.  In an ever secular culture, and this is particularly true of the teaching of medical ethics in this country, this volume demonstrates the need for those working in health and social care to be open to what theology may offer in the generation of wisdom.

Theology too may benefit from an opening up to the tremendous creativity that has been demonstrated as the 20th Century has witnessed a biological revolution as profound as the industrial revolution of the 18th Century.   The Church might be challenged to move  out of its natural comfort zones into listening and learning to the way in which science has posed all kinds of issues about freedom and autonomy in new developments. The question that is consistent in the book is how our reason, loyalties and identities within the faith communities might play their part in working with others to deliver a vision of human flourishing.  Nowhere more is the voices of theology needed than in the current discussion about mortality and what choices individuals and communities may have at the end of life.

This is somewhat of a model of a book in all kinds of areas.  The first is it offers a model of excellence about how best to organise and deliver a textbook.  The second is that it offers some important modelling of interdisciplinary conversation where theological reflection is the beating heart of an attempt to understand and in what way medicine might be moral.  Thirdly it commits itself always and on every page to the reader through its quality of learning and clarity of writing.


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