Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Book Review

Bioethics: An Introduction

Marianne Talbot
Cambridge University Press
ISBN 978-0-521-71459-4

Photo of book coverThis is a clearly laid out and very well written introduction to bioethics. Although aimed at students taking a bioethics course, it will prove helpful to anyone interested in the subject. Each chapter begins with a list of objectives and ends with topics suitable for further group discussion.

The book begins suitably enough with an examination of the philosophical principles that underpin bioethical reflection. The early chapters assist the reader to structure their thinking and evaluate the pertinent arguments. Various ethical theories are then looked at including virtue ethics, deontology and utilitarianism. What little there is of natural law ethics is to be found under deontology.

The subsequent chapters examine an up to date list of bioethical issues including embryo selection, cloning and assisted suicide. As the author has stated, this is not a text book of medical ethics and it does not cover autonomy or informed consent. Missing too is mention of abortion.

Were one to commence a course on bioethics, this is certainly an ideal work to supplement the teaching. However, as with so many similar works currently in print, there is a somewhat disdainful disregard for natural law thinking and objective truth.

Still, it is by far and away one of the best introductions to the often complex world of bioethics.