Bioethics from a Faith Perspective: Ethics in Health Care for the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

Bioethics from a Faith Perspective: Ethics in Health Care for the Twenty-First Century. By Jack Hanford. New York: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2002. xii + 147pp. $49.95 (cloth); $19.95 (paper).

Bioethics from a Faith Perspective relates issues of religious faith to decisions about health care. Beginning with the assumption that "most Americans state their moral positions from the background of their faith traditions" (p. 1), Hanford advances the theory that faith, especially Christian faith, provides a perspective and framework as a contribution to bioethics and is also compatible with scientific method. "This contribution can be distinctive to a biblical tradition, useful and pragmatic to bioethics, and enriching to American culture" (pp. 5-6).

Using the seminal work of Lawrence Kohlberg and James Fowler, the author discusses six stages oi faith development and relates them to the advancement of justice as "the central moral value" (p. 23) in ethical decisions. From this standpoint he discusses Christian bioethics and states that a "relationship is therapeutic when it is loving" (p. 41). This love includes caring and effective treatment. In my reading of Hanford, Christian faith is all-inclusive and leads to a public faith or religion that focuses on "three essentials for a good health system," namely what Mark Seigler has stated elsewhere as "care, competence, and compassion" (p. 47). This public faith or public church model is employed to include Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical church denominations.

From this faith perspective Hanford discusses issues related to organ transplants, managed care, genetics, medical technology, and the elderly. Unfortunately, he does not include case studies which might show how his theoretical construct applies to particular clinical situations. Hanford argues well for equality for mental health care within managed care and HMOs (pp. 5961), but he stops short of calling for universal and comprehensive medical care for every citizen. However, he rightly acknowledges the need for limits in what any health care system can accomplish. There is a debate concerning organ transplants because of their availability and cost over against the need for preventive and primary care. These limits are discussed with particular reference to the work of Daniel Callahan and Renee Fox.

Much has changed in the field of genetics since Hanford wrote his chapter on the human genome project. …