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Books, Journals, New Media
May 5, 2004


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(17):2131-2132. doi:10.1001/jama.291.17.2131

Baruch Brody identifies Taking Issue: Pluralism and Casuistry in Bioethics as a collection of previously published dissenting essays. He defines his voice as one that disagrees with much of the standard literature in medical ethics. He argues, among other things, for the permissibility of placebo-controlled trials of surgical procedures and for a fundamental moral distinction between killing and letting die.

The stands Brody takes are not new; those of us who swim in the often-turbulent waters of bioethics have encountered these streams before. Most major religious traditions distinguish between "passive" and "active" euthanasia (see, for example, A Different Death1 and Introduction to Jewish and Catholic Bioethics2). While the issue of sham surgery in clinical research remains controversial,3 some ethicists would go beyond the question, "Is such a procedure permissible and if so, under what conditions?" to ask, "Can it be ethical not to use sham surgery to rigorously evaluate a surgical procedure before it is introduced into practice?"4 A comprehensive look at medical ethics literature would also find many who agree with the other stands Brody argues in Taking Issue, including the need to develop judgments about rates of compensation for research subjects, the need to reconceptualize our understanding of brain death, the permissibility of waiving the informed consent requirement for research in some cases, and the permissibility of more widespread use of animals as research subjects.

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