Janet E. Smith and Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Ph.D. pose 57 questions about life issues that many people may want to ask Catholic ethicists and moral theologians about. They cover cloning, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, euthanasia, sterilization and more. Life Issues, Medical Choices is a great help in reaching an understanding about what the Catholic Church teaches about life and medical issues. The authors quote scripture, Church Fathers, and various Church documents like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, plus various encyclicals and other such sources from Pope John Paul II and other popes. The authors are also straightforward in telling the reader that the Church has not reached a conclusion on what it teaches about a certain issue.
There are seven chapters. The first is an introduction to life issues - the value of human life, conscience and what that means, Church teachings and acceptance or denial of them, what prudential judgment is, what is the principle of double effect, and other topics. Chapter two is on beginning of life issues. This chapter discusses abortion, when does life begin, is it moral to have an abortion if the unborn child is handicapped, which ways of treating ectopic pregnancies are moral, and other issues. Chapter three is on reproductive technologies. This chapter discusses moral reproductive technologies, cloning, adopting a frozen embryo, the moral permissibility of ovarian transplants and other questions. Chapter four is on contraception, sterilization and natural family planning. This chapter examines what the Catholic Church teaches on contraception, what Natural Family Planning is, if contraception be used for medical purposes, if vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is moral, if sterilization is moral at any time, and other issues.
Chapter five is on end of life issues and examines the immorality of euthanasia, mercy killing, right to life, suffering, suicide, supplying food and water for a person in a vegetative state, when a person is truly dead, what the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is, and other topics. Chapter six is on cooperation with evil. This chapter informs and discusses what we and medical professionals should not do to cooperate with evil. This involves the morality of assisting in an abortion, the morality of pharmacists in filling contraceptive prescriptions, the morality of removing a healthy breast to prevent breast cancer, and reporting immoral practices to a bishop of a Catholic hospital. Chapter seven is on the ten commandments for health care professionals and patients.
There is a helpful bibliography of books, journals and websites, followed by endnotes and an index. This book is highly recommended to those interested in Catholic moral teaching on life and medical issues.
Janet E. Smith is the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later (1992) and of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader (1993).
Dr. Christopher Kaczor (Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame) studied as a Fullbright Scholar at the University of Cologne in Germany and is the director of the University Honors Program and faculty member in the School of Philosophy at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition (2002) and The Edge of Life: Human Dignity and Contemporary Bioethics (2005).