Bioethics by Gilbert Meilaender Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

There are many texts cataloging the broad concerns of modern bioethics; this book is not merely another. Gilbert Meilaender does not attempt to involve all perspectives in presenting the key issues in bioethics. Instead, he presents a more specific focus in Bioethics; he avoids catering to one segment of the populace and instead engages what he calls “the truth that has claimed us in Jesus.”

Meilaender begins at procreation, investigating the language and mentality behind the modern approach to making babies. The beginning of life, as he tells us, is not a matter of the exercise of rights or the self-fulfillment of parents, but rather an engagement of and cooperation with God’s love. This book first analyzes the controversial topic of abortion. Meilaender engages all the familiar questions surrounding the beginning of life, personhood, the woman’s right to privacy, and other concerns surrounding human attitudes toward unwanted pregnancy and people’s ability to accept the unbidden. He reminds the Christian reader that this topic, though controversial for some, should be largely straightforward despite the difficulties that some pregnancies might entail.

Meilaender also looks at medical testing and treatment of fetuses, as the advances of the Human Genome Project bring society closer to genetic diagnosis, treatment, and even enhancement at the fetal stage of life. The wonders of genetic knowledge contain a dark side, he warns, which may lead away from an unconditional commitment to children and toward an attitude of “quality control.”

Other difficult questions confronting modern medicine that Meilaender discusses include suicide and euthanasia, the rejection of life-prolonging treatment, the extent of patient autonomy allowed, and the donation to medicine of organs and embryos. The issues surrounding death and the relief of suffering are opportunities for the author to point out that physicians must not become too...

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Bioethics Bibliography (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Eberl, Jason T. Thomistic Principles and Bioethics. New York: Routledge, 2006. An in-depth look at bioethical dilemmas of the beginning and end of life, using the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas as a practically applicable guide.

Elliot, Carl. Better than Well. New York: Norton, 2003. This exploration of the biological pursuit of happiness is an interesting analysis of the problems that may be encountered on the road to genetic enhancement.

Kass, Leon R. Toward a More Natural Science. New York: Free Press, 1985. In this seminal work for Christian bioethics, Kass explores what it means to be human in an era of medical advance and challenge toward human nature.

May, William E. Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life. Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. A look at the spectrum of bioethical issues and how modern approaches both derive and deviate from Catholic teaching on humans.

Meilaender, Gilbert. “The Politics of Bioethics.” The Weekly Standard 9, no. 30 (April 12-19, 2004): 13-14. Contains a discussion of the President’s Council on Bioethics and the politics that affected it.