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January 15, 1992

Human Life in the Balance

Author Affiliations

by David C. Thomasma, 268 pp, paper $14.95, ISBN 0-664-25059-9, Lousiville, Ky, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.

JAMA. 1992;267(3):431-432. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480030111053

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"We are clearly in a state of chaos about the status of human life in our society," writes David C. Thomasma in his book Human Life in the Balance. This is a well-thought-out, well-researched, and incredibly well-referenced plea for each of us to begin to affirm the value of human life and then to participate in social action in support of those views. It is not a call for civil disobedience (an excellent discussion of this can be found in Francis Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto) but a cry for dialogue. Thomasma's "nightmare" is "no consensus about the status of human life."

He persuades that a "baseline commitment to an irreducible value inherent in human beings" does not confine us to one particular moral, political, or religious position. In the process, he outlines three possible positions that we, as individuals and as a society, can take and still have a baseline