Book Review — Life Choices: A Hastings Center Introduction to Bioethics, 2nd Edition

January-February 2001


Life Choices: A Hastings Center Introduction to Bioethics, 2nd Editione
By Joseph H. Howell and William F. Sale, eds.
Georgetown University Press, Baltimore
2000, 616 pp., $35 (paperback)

This second edition of the popular collection from The Hastings Center in Garrison, NY, represents what the editors believe are some of the best articles published in the Hastings Center Report over the past 28 years.

Although most of the articles collected here are from just the past 15 years, some are older and are now considered classics. The text seeks to address the most important bioethical issues confronting contemporary society. New articles have been added to this edition, but the text's basic focus remains the same. Its purposes are, first, to provide a challenging text for classrooms and study groups, and, second, to serve as witness to the achievements of the Hastings Center in its study of bioethics.

The book opens with a general introduction that asks, among other things, whether ethics can provide answers to complex bioethical topics. Following the introduction are eight sections, each of which addresses a pressing topic in health care: goals and allocation in medicine, rights and responsibilities in biomedicine, reproductive freedom and responsibility, termination of treatment, new reproductive technologies, organ and tissue transplantation, genetic engineering and the human future, and human cloning. Each section contains several articles by authors noted in that particular field. Following each article is a series of questions for students and study-group participants to discuss.

The book's contents are very good. I would have liked to see a few other relevant articles included in this volume, but the articles that come to mind were not, unfortunately, originally published in the Hastings Center Report. In any case, nearly all the articles here are of very high quality, and they represent some of the most important positions taken on the topics under consideration. The book also includes a significant report by the Hastings Center staff, entitled "The Goals of Medicine: Setting New Priorities." For the most part, the essays reprinted in this volume are quite readable, as even a beginner in the field of bioethics will find.

I give high marks to this introductory text for both its structure and its contents. Although a growing number of bioethics anthologies are now appearing in the market, this book should, I think, be given serious consideration by professors and study-group leaders. Because the book is long, it might seem impractical for use by study groups; but its high quality may well, in the end, make using it worth the effort.

James J. Walter, PhD
Austin & Ann O'Malley Professor of Bioethics
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles


Copyright © 2001 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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