The Story of Bioethics: From Seminal Works to Contemporary Explorations

By Eran P. Iuein; Jennifer K. Walter | Go to book overview

7
Richard A. McCormick, S.J.'s
“To Save or Let Die: The Dilemma
of Modern Medicine”

LISA SOWLE CAHILL

Richard McCormick was one of the twentieth century's leading Catholic theologians. He made many important contributions to bioethics, especially in the “Notes on Moral Theology” he authored in Theological Studies for over twenty years, which were eagerly awaited every March by Catholic theologians and pastors. Since Dick left this world only three years ago, it is not inappropriate to linger for a moment on an elegiac note. Here are some words his good friend, colleague, coauthor, and co-conspirator, Charles Curran, delivered on the occasion of Dick's funeral. “Dick skillfully wove together common sense, perceptive analysis, a critical intelligence, and an ability to cut through the debate to the salient feature of a problem. McCormick possessed to an eminent degree the virtues of a good moral theologian. He was a judicious, objective, calm, well-balanced observer who needed to be convinced by rational arguments. However, he was not unduly hesitant to decide issues and always had the courage of his conviction.”


MCCORMICK IN CONTEXT

These good qualities are perfectly illustrated in the short article, now almost thirty years old, that the editors of this volume suggested I address. The choice was an excellent one. “To Save or Let Die,” a brief discussion of allowing an infant to die, was published simultaneously in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Jesuit weekly America (McCormick 1974). This fact in itself displays McCormick's aptitude for speaking about ethics both in Catholic circles and to a larger public. The genre, a semi-popular essay in which complicated or seeminglv arcane

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