MORTAL CHOICES: Bioethics in Today's Worm by Ruth Macklin

MORTAL CHOICES: Bioethics in Today's Worm

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Modern biomedical technology has given us a new discipline--bioethics--and an unlovely word--ethicist--to describe what people like Macklin do. Originally trained in academic philsophy, Macklin is now Professor of Bioethics at N.Y.'s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She also sits on hospital advisory committees, conducts ethical ""rounds,"" consults on protocol for research on human subjects, and, from what she presents here, injects a clarity and wisdom to discussions of the moral dilemmas faced by decision-makers in today's high-tech and pluralist society. Macklin could certainly be counted as Kantian, asserting that human beings must be treated as ends in themselves and never means. She can also argue from a utilitarian/ consequentialist philosophy, looking at the outcome of actions in terms of benefits to the individual and to society at large. In short, do not expect a doctrinaire approach espousing a particular religion or school of ethics. Do expect insights into how she and others approach touchy subjects, cutting through the anger and passion that too often cloud the issues. (Thus, Macklin can argue that the child of a Jehovah Witness couple can be given a necessary blood transfusion because the child is not able to act autonomously, but that the rights of a devout adult Witness who believes that eternal damnation will follow the ""eating"" of blood should be respected.) Macklin reviews the legal decisions of a number of historic cases, but her range is far wider in dealing with the everyday problems that occur in big city hospitals. Altogether, there is enough material here for all concerned laymen to ponder--and for the biomedical and behavioral-science professional to take to heart--and mind.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Pantheon