On the Cutting Edge

The contemporary literature of bioethics, although vast, can often make for unsatisfactory reading. It tends to place too much emphasis on patient autonomy, yet fails to adequately examine the ethical implications of procedures such as genetic testing, abortion, and euthanasia. There is often little scrutiny of the moral ends of medicine and far too much emphasis on the ethics of particular means.

It is refreshing, in this environment, to read Joel Shuman and Brian Volck’s Reclaiming the Body. Theirs is not a typical jargon-laden bioethics treatise. Shuman, a moral theologian, and Volck, a pediatrician, have crafted a different kind of book: a readable monograph that takes as its starting point theology and faith, not medicine. They are interested in exploring the meaning of the physical body, not just as it is viewed by the medical establishment, but how it is presented in Scripture and in the Christian tradition. The book is clearly addressed to Christians, who are encouraged to approach medical matters “as if God mattered.”

They begin by questioning whether theology “has something to offer” anyone who must deal with the medical community. Their answer is yes, and in chapters that explore the power of the medical establishment, the meaning of the body, and other themes, they examine the many ways in which Christian Scripture and practice can inform our approach to medicine. Medicine itself, they...

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About the Author

Christine Rosen is a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author of Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement (Oxford University Press) and My Fundamentalist Education (PublicAffairs).