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Book and Media Reviews
January 7, 2009

The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics

JAMA. 2009;301(1):107. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.907

The options for readers interested in bioethics have expanded exponentially. Choices range from undergraduate texts to sophisticated monographs with specialty-specific titles, anthologies, and examination-focused, revisionist works. The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics achieves something significant—it provides an original and valuable addition to an already crowded marketplace.

The list of contributors reads like a Who's Who of bioethics. Many well-respected authors are included, and the quality of the writing reflects the esteem in which the contributors are held. Given the editors' nationalities, it is not surprising that the majority of contributors hail from the developed world, with Canada predominating and the United States and United Kingdom well represented. Yet global and culturally diverse perspectives are well acknowledged—as in 2 fascinating sections, “Global Health Ethics and Cross-Cultural Considerations in Bioethics” and “Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Bioethics.” These sections capture the challenge of determining principles of universal applicability while attending to cultural pluralism. The editors commence with a lucid analysis of common bioethical methodologies, explaining why they do not favor a particular approach or theoretical perspective and thereby avoiding the solipsistic circularity that can render academic bioethics self-indulgent to clinicians.

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