HEALTH AND MEDICINE IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION: Tradition in Transition by Richard A. McCormick


Email this review


Dry and overschematized, with too many guidelines and quotations from papal and ecclesiastical documents--but a solid, scholarly, and compassionate presentation of conservative Catholic medical ethics. Actually McCormick (Georgetown) describes his position, or theological bias, as ""the extreme middle,"" but he almost always stays on the near side of orthodoxy. He builds his arguments around six basic assumptions: that life is a ""basic but not an absolute good"" (so there is no a priori obligation to use every means possible to sustain life); that ""nascent life"" must be protected (McCormick avoids condemning all abortions on principle, but insists that ""A simple pro-choice moral position is in conflict with the biblical story""); that the key to life is human relationships (and so the patient's future ability to engage in them becomes the criterion for switching life support systems on or off); that ""our essential sociality"" grounds some crucial norms (e.g., it justifies ""minimal or no risk"" experimentation on the incompetent, organ transplants, etc. --and dictates a fair distribution of health care services); that life-giving and lovemaking are inseparable (concretely, McCormick would allow artificial insemination of a wife by her husband, but not by another donor); that permanent, heterosexual marriage is ""normative"" (though not all homosexual unions are ipso facto wrong). McCormick is well informed on biomedical issues and displays a sturdy common sense (he enjoys a laugh at the expense of Pope Leo XII, who wrote in 1829 that ""Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God""). On the other hand he does have a dogmatic heritage to defend, and many readers will part company with him when, for instance, he says that the pregnancy of a retarded woman resulting from ""moral rape"" (involuntary intercourse) ""should be supported as fully as possible."" High priority for Catholic health care professionals.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Crossroad