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Book ReviewsLife Issues, Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics

Book written by: Janet M. Smith and Christopher Kaczor

Janet E. Smith and Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Ph.D. pose 57 common questions regarding Catholicism and life issues to be answered by Catholic ethicists and moral theologians.  These include cloning, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, euthanasia, sterilization and other timely topics. 

This book is a tremendous help in shedding light on some of these difficult issues and in reaching an understanding about what the Catholic Church truly teaches.  The authors quote scripture, Church Fathers, various Church documents such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals and other such sources from Pope John Paul II and other popes.  The authors are also open in telling the reader when the Church has not reached a conclusion on what it teaches about a certain issue.

There are seven chapters:  The first chapter introduces life issues by discussing the value of human life, conscience and what it means, Church teachings and acceptance or denial of them, prudential judgment, the principle of double effect, and other topics. 

The next chapter focuses on life issues such as abortion and the questions:  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?  The following chapters describe reproductive technologies and which ones follow moral teachings, contraception and natural family planning, euthanasia, suicide, etc. 

The later chapters focus on what we and medical professionals should not do to cooperate with evil.  This involves questions such as:  is it moral to assist in an abortion?  Is it moral for pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions?  Is it moral to remove a healthy breast to prevent breast cancer?  And, how does one go about reporting immoral practices to a bishop of a Catholic hospital? 

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).

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