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Archive for January 3rd, 2015

Christian Bioethics A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families

C. Ben Mitchell and D. Joy Riley.  Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014. 197 pp.

This is a wonderful book on bioethics from a Christian perspective.  I have felt for years that there is a need for more works on Christian bioethics and no doubt this book makes a contribution.  The book exceeded my expectation.  I appreciated the fact that both authors’ background helped in making a contribution to the book:  C. Ben Mitchell has a PhD in medical ethics in addition to his pastoral background while D. Joy Riley is a physician with a masters in bioethics.  Both Mitchell and Riley serve in hospital ethics committee and have written previous on bioethical issues.

The book is divided into four parts.  The first part is an introduction with chapter one on doctors and medicine and chapter two on how to apply the Bible for the Twenty First century.  The “meat” of the book is in part two through four which adopts the bioethics rubric by theologian Nigel Cameron of “taking life, making life and remaking/faking life.”  Under “Taking Life” there is a chapter each on abortion and human dignity in death.  Under “Making Life” the authors discusses the topic of assisted reproductive technology, organ donations, transplantation, cloning and human-animal hybrids.  Part four consist of one chapter on the topic of aging and life extension technologies with a significant discussion on Transhumanist movement.  General readers will learn a lot from these chapters concerning these controversial issues.

I also appreciated the format of the book.  Each chapter opens up with a case study followed by some discussion questions based upon the case study.  The heart of each chapter is a dialogue discussion between the two authors.  At first I wasn’t sure whether it would work having the book set up as an “interview” but I was pleasantly surprised that it worked out well and brought out the authors’ particular knowledge and specialty.  The interview format allows us to see two experts dialoguing on the issue with the readers being able to “listen in.”

It was thoughtful of the authors to have helpful summary in the back of some of the chapters; for instance, there is an outline for the “Process for Medical Ethical Decision Making” after the chapter on how the Bible communicate to the Twenty First Century and a helpful list of suggestions of practical ways the church may help with the issue of abortion.  In fact, the book was constantly giving practical advice to the readers.  For instance I found the chapter on human dignity and dying to be very practical as a pastor to think about how to minister to those who are dying—and also got me thinking about my own death as well.  As the book documented, we are in an interesting age in history in which many people in the West have the privilege of not having to constantly think about death as many people in the past have to face.

I would encourage that if one were to read this book to read it with a highlighter since there are a lot of information.  I learned a lot reading this!  I enjoyed learning the historical background of the Hippocratic Oath, its pagan origin and how it was later adapted to reflect a Christian worldview.  I was also surprised to learn how it is not an administered oath for doctors today.  The book also discussed about the Christian origin of hospitals and historic precedence for caring the sick.  The book did a good job defining terms and my only criticism of the book is that it would be nice to see a glossary given the many acronym and medical terms used it could be easy for a general audience to forget them.   One helpful discussion about defining terms is the book’s discussion about the problem of defining death in terms of brain activity or the lack thereof.  The book mentioned that there has been documented case of over 175 “brain dead” long term survivors which should definitely serve as a caution.  I also appreciate the book’s discussion about the mechanics of cloning and embryonic stem cells.

I highly recommend this book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher B&H Publishing Group  through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Purchase: Amazon

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