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ss triple helix - winter 2003,  Caring Well: Religion, Narrative and Health Care Ethics (Book Review)

Caring Well: Religion, Narrative and Health Care Ethics (Book Review)

Caring Well: Religion, Narrative and Health Care Ethics. - Ed. David H Smith - Westminster John Knox Press 2000 - £ 17.99 Pb 276pp - ISBN 0 66422 256 0

Doctors have long struggled with ethical dilemmas such as the distinction between killing and letting die. This book uses narratives, like those written by two compassionate physicians about dying patients, to explore doctors' motives and to come to a clearer understanding of this difficult boundary. Other essays look at the perspectives of hospital Chaplains on organ donation, and help to ground the whole ethics of transplantation in the context of managing individual grief.

The book is a collection of essays that explore narratives from literature, personal commentaries or interviews of professionals and patients. Three major areas of care, each with different ethical conflicts, are addressed. These are the care of children, organ transplantation and care of the dying. Most of the religious input is from a Christian perspective, although there is one chapter based on the reflections of Jewish physicians.

The authors are mainly Professors of Religion, Ethics or Philosophy, with one clinician, and all are American. Differences in cultural and legal background will therefore make this book less relevant for doctors based in other countries. Furthermore, the first few chapters focus on the methodology and as such are directed more at fellow-ethicists and theologians. Readers of Triple Helix might well find it better to start at Part Two and leave these early chapters to the end.

This book is not a comfortable read, but it will certainly raise many interesting questions and help us reflect on how our own spiritual experience influences our care.

Reviewed by
Carl Whitehouse
Professor of Teaching Medicine in the Community in Manchester

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