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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: D. Robert MacDougall, MDiv (Saint Louis University)
Description: This book explains how decision making with the worst case scenario in mind has had a chronically negative impact on both medical and public health policy.
Purpose: The purpose is to show that policies involving human rights abuses or infringements on civil liberties are sometimes justified by appealing to the potential development of worst case scenarios, but that policies or plans developed on such a basis are nearly always self defeating. The book corrals many illustrative examples from a wide range of health laws in accomplishing its objectives.
Audience: It is aimed at both bioethicists and scholars in related fields, such as health law, medicine, and public health. The book is not overly technical and should be accessible to all of its intended audience. The author has published several well-known works related to health law and bioethics and is widely considered an expert in this field.
Features: The book is divided into three parts that deal with the way the U.S. healthcare system is designed around the avoidance of death, the role this sort of worst-case scenario thinking has had in judicial decisions involving physicians, and the effect that such worst-case thinking has had on public health policy. The author uses his underlying theme, the avoidance of worst-case scenarios, in an imaginative way to draw together several features of U.S. healthcare and law that are not usually considered together. For example, it is particularly interesting to see him trace the infringements of civil liberties in public health, and the inefficient basic structure of U.S. healthcare delivery, to the same root cause. However, he also has a proclivity for asserting politically contentious opinions as though they are facts, neglecting to defend them or even indicate he is aware that they need to be defended.
Assessment: Most readers interested in these topics will find this a creative and insightful rubric for examining different aspects of U.S. healthcare and law.