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From The CriticsReviewer:Albert I Wertheimer, BS, MBA, PhD(Temple University School of Pharmacy)
Description:This is a rather unusual, but good, book. Each of the eight chapters is independent from the others, and each includes a modern ethical or policy matter with a recent real-life example. For example, chapter 3 about marijuana deals with individual liberties, police power, conflict of laws, etc. In addition, two appendixes deal with continuing ethical and legal questions. It must be said that this is anything but a dry ethics or legal textbook; it is actually enjoyable to read and presents some interesting perspectives that people working in related fields might find stimulating.
Purpose:The purpose is to help pharmacy and medical students, interested practitioners, and others better understand the ethics of drug use and impact of drugs on quality of life. These are worthy objectives, but the relevance of the book will rapidly dissipate as the current events used to illustrate the cases become dated and less well known. For example, the Vioxx case is presented, as is the battle regarding the morning-after pill approval. It is difficult to say whether a book is needed. (Is a new poem needed?) Perhaps not, but it can be the source of valuable information in an easy to digest format in a publication that presents a very complete view of this topic. The book meets the author's objectives, especially since not every pharmacy or medical school has a professor available with the depth of knowledge and insight seen here.
Audience:The author tells us that the book should be read by students in the healthcare professions, as well as healthcareprofessionals, and that lay readers will find the book fascinating and easy to read. This is a reasonable assessment, but one may question how fascinating a lay reader may find the book unless there is a very special interest in the topic. But for persons in the healthcare field at pharmaceutical manufacturers, professional societies, regulatory agencies, and distributors, among others, this could be an illuminating and interesting source of valuable information. The author is uniquely qualified to write this book. Bruce White is a physician, pharmacist, attorney, a board-certified pediatrician, and holder of a fellowship in clinical medical ethics. In addition, some chapters are written by equally qualified persons in their respective disciplines.
Features:The book is useful because it is possible to explore a single topic without becoming mired in other chapters/topics. Everyone knows what it is like when you go to an index and find your subject listed on 43-44, 87, 102,3 and 157. You know that you will not get the full story anywhere. That is not the case here, fortunately. The case method design for presenting the material makes reading and studying less burdensome and more interesting. Other principal topic areas are: professionalism, codes of ethics, pain medicines, assisted suicide, drug use in futile situations, and gene therapy. Two of the best features of the book are an amazingly thorough index of 21 pages and 40 pages of references and citations for serious readers who care to pursue topics in greater depth. If asked for suggestions for a second edition, one might want a greater/broader scope and range of topics.
Assessment:This is a useful addition to one's library. It is understandable, and the indexing and case-format layout make it very helpful when some facts are needed for a lecture or quotation for an article. It complements, rather than competes with, other ethics books, such as Smith et al.'s Pharmacy Ethics (Haworth Press, 1991).