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Approaching the End - A theological exploration of death and dying (Book Review)

Easter 2008

From triple helix - Easter 2008 - Approaching the End - A theological exploration of death and dying (Book Review) [p17]

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Approaching the End - A theological exploration of death and dying - David Albert Jones - Oxford University Press 2007 - £55.00 Hb 242pp - ISBN 0 19928 7155

This scholarly work by a professor of bioethics looks at two questions: 'How can we live well in the face of death?' and 'When is it ethically permissible to deliberately end human life?' It examines the writings of Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the twentieth century theologian Karl Rahner. It covers New Testament and some Old Testament teaching along the way, as the scriptural index shows. It also touches on such unlikely subjects as virginity, marriage and angels!

The teaching of Ambrose is summarised as seeing physical death as a good thing. Augustine saw physical death as 'good for the good, bad for the bad' (in contrast to the 'second death' which is not good for anyone). Aquinas considers death to be natural in one way (because we are animals) but unnatural in another, as we have a soul 'which is of itself immortal…so that immortality is more natural to human beings than to other animals' . Rahner views death as both something suffered and to be achieved. Though primarily a theologian's book, Approaching the End will interest CMF members for its discussion of practical issues such as suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, withholding and withdrawing treatment and sustaining unconscious patients.

Article written by Trevor Stammers

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