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Book and Media Reviews
June 16, 2010

Vital Conflicts in Medical Ethics: A Virtue Approach to Craniotomy and Tubal Pregnancies

JAMA. 2010;303(23):2414-2418. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.813

In Vital Conflicts in Medical Ethics, Martin Rhonheimer, a Swiss philosopher who teaches at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, sets out to solve a bioethical conundrum involving decrees of the Holy Office (formerly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the prefect receiving this work being Joseph Ratzinger, then Cardinal). These decrees have, as the author expresses it in the preface, “committed Catholic moral theology to the principle that a doctor was obligated in certain gynecological borderline situations to let both child and mother die. This judgment held even in cases where . . . even though the unborn child had no chance of survival—the procedure to save the mother was not permitted.”

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