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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Max Douglas Brown, JD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This book is the seventh volume in a series published by the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College, London. The nine essays cover such topics as decision making relative to the incompetent patient, the regulation of research on humans, euthanasia, compensation for patients injured by pharmaceutical products, and compensation for negligently inflicted psychiatric injury.
Purpose: The book is intended to be of interest to lawyers, philosophers, health care professionals, and the general public. The title is slightly misleading in that not all of the chapters pertain to the difficult health care decisions one would expect to read about in a book with this title.
Audience: The American reader might be disappointed to find that more than half of the book addresses British court cases, which the authors acknowledge have little relevancy to those of our own country. Moreover, they arise from a legal system with which most readers will not be familiar. Similarly, chapters on geriatric medicine and research ethics committees primarily deal with the vagaries of the U.K.'s National Health Service.
Features: The book is written almost exclusively from a rights-based analysis approach. Although it delivers on its promise to provide a wide range of topics, it offers little that is original or thought-provoking except at the most introductory level. The notable exceptions are a chapter on medical ethics in Islam and another on the limits of autonomy. Key chapters on voluntary euthanasia and treatment decisions are unnecessarily argumentative in tone. In addition, one might question the authority of abroadcaster to write on the subject of euthanasia or a professor of neurosurgery from Scotland to consider the legal implications of a major right-to-die case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the book is generally well written and edited to eliminate overlap or duplication. The sources are numerous and sufficiently cited.
Assessment: The major shortcoming of the book and the reason most U.S. readers will not find this book particularly valuable is it is obviously intended for a U.K. audience.