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Books, Journals, New Media
July 21, 1999

Bioethics and ReligionOn Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 1999;282(3):284-285. doi:10.1001/jama.282.3.284-JBK0721-3-1

In 1990 Daniel Callahan introduced a widely noted series of articles on religion and bioethics by remarking that the most striking change in two decades had been the secularization of bioethics. Callahan lamented the loss of vision, insight, and experience of whole communities of faith, which struggle to make sense of the reality of things.

All who share Callahan's concern will welcome the appearance of the second edition of On Moral Medicine, an anthology that demonstrates the many ways in which religious perspectives and traditions influence medical ethics. In their preface, editors Stephen Lammers and Allen Verhey recollect that the first edition appeared at a time (1987) when bioethics had been "quite thoroughly secularized." Public debate over bioethical issues increasingly focused on autonomy and weighing of risks versus benefits. Instead, they argued, as society struggles to deal with new questions about the meaning of life, death, suffering, and health, we must turn back to the most ancient question: what are humans meant to be and become? This is a moral and political question to which science has no answer and which cannot be satisfactorily answered by supposedly impartial utilitarian or formalistic accounts of morality. This new edition is justified not only by changes in medicine but more positively by a revival of interest in religious perspectives and traditions that has prompted a huge outpouring of literature.

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