I recently saw a satirical video advertising doctors as the solution to confusion surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The video made the point that doctors, people who have dedicated close to a decade of education to understanding disease processes, have been some of the most ignored voices in the Covid-19 crisis. Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College, would argue that this assessment is true not only of medicine, but also of expert fields in general. Nichols, in this book diagnoses the death of expertise as a disregard for experts by the lay public. Nichols argues that the American lay person no longer considers the expert’s opinion to have extraordinary weight, and the expert subsequently withdraws from conversations where their knowledge is not valued (Nichols 2017, 4–5).
Known as the “Autism Pastor,” Lamar Hardwick is an essential voice in a rising field: the theology of disability. In Disability and the Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion, the author is true to the subtitle, casting a pastor’s vision for positive change in the church.
Christian ethics and moral decision-making can be complex and intimidating to non-theologians. In addition, the authoritative scriptures do not directly address every possible ethical issue. This problem is especially true in bioethics, which evolves continuously based on medical, scientific, and technological advancements. How should Christians view such issues as artificial intelligence, gene editing, and bodily enhancements? Pastors, healthcare professionals, and lay congregants need help. Invitation to Christian Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues, by Kenneth Magnuson, gives moral guidance to the Christian community to navigate these problems. While not perfect, it offers a solid philosophical and practical approach to Christian ethics.
In Losing Our Dignity, Camosy’s central driving thesis is that the authority and power of modern medicine “have put an increasing number of human beings outside the circle of protection based on fundamental human equality” (p. 13). This loss of human equality and dignity is based primarily on cognitive disadvantages among neurologically diverse individuals, from those with Down syndrome to others with Alzheimer’s disease. In the eyes of an increasingly secular world, such people have less to offer, therefore less dignity.
Along with nurses and medical doctors, pharmacists have long been recognized, and honored, by the public as professionals exhibiting honesty and high ethical standards. Serving as the medication expert in the healthcare system, both other medical professionals and patients alike rely heavily on the pharmacist’s knowledge and skills related to an increasingly complex landscape of medications and the diseases (or situations) that such are intended to prevent or treat. And it is expected—assumed even—that the pharmacist will leverage such expertise in the best interest of the patient—as a fiduciary, if you will—exercising a competent, selfless, and wise approach to each patient’s care.
Carl Trueman, a church historian by training and, in recent years, a cultural analyst, has given the evangelical world—and others willing to listen—a sophisticated historical and philosophical genealogy of the current cultural crisis in the West. It is a “how we arrived at our present situation” book, filled with evidence and intellectual connections over about 300 years. Trueman searches for the roots, not only of our sexual mores and practices, but of the broader ideas that form what many would label the reigning worldview.
Sometimes a book has pages filled with the reality of truth. The Way of Medicine: Ethics and the Healing Profession, by Farr Curlin and Christopher Tollefsen, is one such work. In a relatively short and readable volume, the authors explore and analyze the how’s and why’s of medical practice, from the ancient model of Hippocrates to the modern “service-provider model.” Using case examples, moral theory, foundational ethics, and experience, they charge after the conflicts between the modern model and the more ancient “way of medicine,” which they espouse as “a practice oriented toward the patient’s health as one basic human good” (p. 54). Their central questions are: “what is medicine?” and “what is medicine for?” They answer these by embracing clinical practice as a profession, not a job.
Where does religion fit into modern bioethical discourse? According to sociologist Max Weber, the human mind has a “metaphysical need” to seek order, coherence, and meaning, a need to understand ultimate questions about our nature, purpose, and destiny. Yet modern bioethics operates with no presumptive content of the good and eschews “thick” discourse, relying instead on the procedural grammar of the market, contracts, and limited democracy.
Joshua Mitchell is a specialist in political theory who has contributed one of the few scholarly works addressing the issue of “identity politics” in a liberal society. This phenomenon has exploded on the cultural and political scene in the last twenty years and has caused heated debate across the political spectrum. Moreover, it indirectly affects the theory and practice of medical ethics.
The purpose of laws is to protect people’s rights and freedoms, thus promoting human flourishing. Because they reflect societal values, laws are based on society’s anthropology—its concept of what it means to be human, and the goods, virtues, and practices that ensure prosperity for its citizens. Therefore, for human beings to flourish, laws should be grounded in an understanding of the human condition as it is actually lived. In What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, O. Carter Snead delivers a devastating critique of the anthropological foundations of current laws and policies in public bioethics. His goal is not to propose specific changes, but to defend a more robust vision of the human experience and to offer an alternative to the contemporary paradigm.