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An Introduction to Bioethics. 4th Ed.

 Published by Paulist Press, 2009
RRP: $39.95

Reviewed by Rev Dr Noel Park , who spent many years as a member of several medical/hospital ethics committees.

An Introduction to Bioethics is a significant contribution in an evolving field of study.

However the term “bioethics” may not be well understood as yet and may not draw the attention of readers despite its relevance for all members of the Uniting Church .

Bioethics goes beyond medical/health issues and this book opens up issues around human research as well as concerns for feeding a growing world population and our treatment of animals and the earth.

This book is an introduction to the topic and, as such, appropriately raises the interest of the reader to do further reading on a range of topics without being a definitive text.

Current political issues at both State and Commonwealth levels of government regarding provision and funding of health care are too often debated without examination of the complexity of the ethical considerations facing decision makers.

Overall the authors present the pros and cons of ethical positions clearly and even readers with little previous exposure to the topics will not find their presentation daunting.

They may find the discussion on the distinction between ethics and morals a little convoluted. Some of the terms may be a little too technical and undefined for such readers.

Subjects such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, IVF, abortion, and death and dying are ones which our church with its involvement in hospitals, Blue Care and other services must deal with on a wider basis than a necessary formal Synod Bioethics committee.

Two areas of caution are needed.

Firstly, the case examples and legal comments are based on American (often individual state) laws and may not be applicable in .

Secondly, both authors write from a Roman Catholic orientation and occasionally seem to tailor their arguments so as to remain true to edicts from the church.

If these are kept in mind readers will gain a great deal from this book and almost certainly will be stimulated to pursue particular topics.

The authors provide a summary to each section and discussion questions which mean that the book lends itself to use in group discussion as well as for personal reading.