Book Review — Ethical Patient Care: A Casebook for Geriatric Health Care Teams

July-August 2004

REVIEWED BY JOHN E. MORLEY, MB, BCh

Mathy D. Mezey, Christine K. Cassel, Melissa M. Bottrell, Kathryn Hyer, Judith L. Howe, and Terry T. Fulmer, eds.
Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2002, 354 pp., $24.95 (paperback)

This is a very readable book on ways in which interdisciplinary teams can interact efficiently. The authors offer excellent comments on how to resolve conflicts between team members. Case studies give wonderful examples of how team members can resolve difficult problems faced by older persons.

My problems with the book have to do with its claim that it will provide a greater understanding of ethical principles involved in the health care of older persons. It sometimes appears that our world is becoming filled with self-proclaimed health care ethicists. Unfortunately, many of these people lack appropriate training in the rigors of ethical practice and logic. Their ethical advice is based on their opinions rather than on a carefully considered ethical argument and an examination of the history of ethical and judicial opinions in the area under consideration.

Another area in which ethicists fail to make clear statements is that in which ethical judgments are overlapped by spiritual or religious beliefs. In many areas of health care, ethical issues are grounded in religious belief. This is clearly appropriate, but it is important that the ethicist makes his or her rationale for ethical belief clear.

The ethical decisions offered in this book, although they often appear to be appropriate, come unaccompanied by a rigorous ethical understanding of why they are appropriate. In some cases, a different religious belief could clearly have resulted in a different ethically appropriate outcome.

I strongly recommend this book to those who wish to learn more about how to create highly functional interdisciplinary teams. On the other hand, those who wish to learn from it more about ethical approaches to the care of older persons will most probably be disappointed.

John E. Morley, MB, BCh
Professor of Internal Medicine
Department of Geriatrics
Saint Louis University School of Medicine,
St. Louis

 

Copyright © 2004 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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