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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: D. Robert MacDougall, MDiv (Saint Louis University)
Description: This is a practical, nontechnical introduction to healthcare ethics for health professionals. It explains the author's view of ethics as central to healthcare in general, and concludes with the presentation of the "ethical grid," designed to help health workers think through ethical decisions. Previous editions were published in 1988 and 1998.
Purpose: The author's hope for this edition is that it will help health professionals "make the world better" by recognizing "the need to commit to an ethical way of being." It is unclear whether the book accomplishes such lofty goals.
Audience: The book is written for a variety of "health workers," presumably in the education stage of their careers. It is written to be readily accessible to this group and succeeds in this respect. The author's lifelong involvement in medical ethics qualifies him for this project.
Features: Primarily, the book covers the author's understanding of the role that ethics plays in modern healthcare, the importance of developing a "philosophy of health," the author's suggestion of a "foundations theory of health," the promulgation and explanation of the "ethical grid" (among other pedagogical tools), using several case studies designed to exemplify the proper use of the author's unique ethical analysis tools. The book is clearly written and is readily accessible. Though presenting itself as a practical guide to decision-making, the book also offers a critique of the way that healthcare ethics is currently taught.
Assessment: The book is helpful to the extent that it asks students to consider all of their actions in light of their own philosophy of health and to act with integrity. However, while the author claims that other treatments of healthcare ethics are overly theoretical, this book also is primarily theoretical. The first 60 pages are introductory material, and much space is devoted to defending the author's current view of practical morality and its relationship to modern healthcare and explaining in detail how his view has changed. These sections might be tedious for the intended audience. More advanced readers, on the other hand, will desire better developed arguments.