J Med Ethics 28:331-332 doi:10.1136/jme.28.5.331
  • Book review

Life and Death in Healthcare Ethics: A Short Introduction

H Watt. Routledge, 2000, £7.99, vii + 97pp. ISBN 0-415-21574-9

This is a compact, nicely written book that provides a rejuvenating alternative to the utilitarian orthodoxy that dominates contemporary bioethics. There is currently a dearth of bioethical literature presenting what might be called a more traditional approach to medicine and health care. This contribution is a short and useful introduction to such an approach.

The book announces itself as being written with “both the general reader and students and professionals in medicine, nursing, law, philosophy and related areas in mind”. Accordingly, it assumes no prior knowledge of ethics. It gives a neat introductory overview of some ethical concerns raised by reproduction, death, and dying. The issues considered include euthanasia and withdrawal of treatment, the persistent vegetative state, abortion, cloning, and in vitro fertilisation.

By beginning the early chapters with a real-life case, Watt captures the interest of the reader. The case is introduced and discussed dispassionately. It is then employed as a springboard for a general discussion of principles often thought dry and difficult. Newcomers to the study of ethics will …

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