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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: David Thomasma, PhD (Loyola University Medical Center)
Description: The purpose of this truly monumental book is to comprehensively analyze the traditional four principles in bioethics from medical, philosophical, cultural, and religious perspectives, and to measure and critique their impact on health care relationships, on society, and on scientific advances in medicine. There are thus a wide variety of issues and perspectives for the English-speaking audience.
Purpose: As bioethics matures internationally, critiques included in this book will become even more important. The four principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice have been successfully used in American bioethics for almost 25 years. They have only recently come under fire for being too abstract and for embodying too much of American culture to be easily translated into other environments. Thus, the book first contains an analysis and critique of the four principles from the perspectives of different faiths and philosophies. The second section explores relationships and health care ethics. The third section is composed of particular problems in health care. In the final two sections, health care ethics and society, and ethics and scientific advance are examined.
Audience: Virtually anyone coming upon bioethics for the first time, graduate students, health care educators, or senior scholars will find this book helpful. Indeed it would be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive overview of the state-of-the-art of bioethics around the world today. The contributors listing reads like a who's who of the major bioethicists active throughout world today. The principal editor is a physician who founded and edits a medical ethics journal in England.
Features: The book layout is superb and well-bound, an important consideration for a book this size. Each chapter is about 10 pages long, and although scholarly and comprehensive, each is also very readable. There is a thorough 41 page index.
Assessment: Highest marks go to the editors and contributors for the variety of topics and perspectives and comprehensiveness of coverage. The only weaknesses might be the four-principle approach itself, a problem that the book itself illustrates, and the cost of $295, putting it out of reach of many in its potential audience. All the contributions are original chapters written for this book, so that the theme of the four principles can be discerned in each one. It holds together surprisingly well for a book this size. It can be very highly recommended.