Bioethics Forum Essay

Bioethics Books in Brief

A lot of new bioethics books come to The Hastings Center. Some of them end up getting reviewed in the Hastings Center Report, but not as many as we’d like. So, we’re launching a new recurring feature in Bioethics Forum—a quick listing of some of the new books we’ve received. Part of the feature, too, is an invitation to our readers for comments, some of which we hope to be able to publish in theReport.

This month, the new books fall into several broad categories:

Bioethics and Society

Bioethics: The Basics, by Alastair Campbell (Routledge)

This introduction to the study of bioethics brings to prominence the most fundamental questions of the field. Everything from the theoretical frameworks people use to the relation between ethics and modern technology is examined.

The Human Microbiome: Ethical, Legal and Social Concerns, by Rosamond Rhodes, Nada Gligorov, and Abraham Paul Schwab (Oxford University Press)

This collaboration argues that research on the human microbiome is leading to revolutionary advances in medical care.  The authors assert that this field is changing the foundation of human relations to medicine and has wide-reaching implications in ethics and society.

Doctors and Patients

What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care, by Larry Churchill, Joseph Fanning, and David Schenck (Oxford University Press)

In a mosaic of patient interviews, this work illustrates how patients’ vulnerability and the degree of responsiveness from clinicians form the core of the patient experience.  Churchill, Fanning, and Schenck seek to enrich the foundational relationship of bioethics—that of doctor and patient—by showing what patients truly believe is good, compassionate care.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink(Crown Publishers)

Fink presents a harrowing and eye-opening account of the desperation and decision-making that occurred in Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina. In this culmination of more than 500 interviews, the trauma, process, and care that led to medical professionals’decisions to euthanize patients is pieced together.


Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery, by Rachel Adams (Yale University Press)

This work is a personal, painful, and reflective view into the first three years of Adams’s son Henry, born with Down syndrome. The author grapples with the contradictory nature of a world that is increasingly accepting of persons with disabilities, and yet is at the same time employing prenatal genetic testing to limit their births.

Parental Obligations and Bioethics: The Duties of a Creator, by Bernard Prusak(Routledge)

Prusak uncovers the obligations parents take on when they bring a child into being. The discussion extends far beyond obligations to treat a child with respect and provide for his or her basic needs. It also addresses alternative reproductive methods, adoption, and a public responsibility toward children.

Synthetic Biology and Engineering

Designer Biology: The Ethics of Intensively Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems, edited by John Basl & Ronald Sandler (Lexington Books)

This ambitious work brings together ethical discussions surrounding different instances of humans engineering themselves and their surroundings. Various disciplinary perspectives on the effects of human intervention on reproduction, the environment, and other forms of life are presented as if in conversation with one another.

Better Humans? Understanding the Enhancement Project, by Michael Hauskeller (Acumen)

Hauskeller examines the thought process underpinning the human desire for enhancement through medicine. To do so, he explores what—if any—purpose humans have and how people trying to improve themselves conceive of this purpose.

Synthetic Biology and Morality: Artificial Life and the Bounds of Nature, by Gregory E. Kaebnick and Thomas H. Murray (MIT Press)

Kaebnick and Murray curate essays that highlight the moral questions associated with designing and building organisms for human needs. The authors consider whether this movement is an attempt to control our world and what ethical dilemmas the answer may leave us with.


These additions to bioethical literature remind us that our conception of a good human life is ever evolving.

We invite readers to leave comments on these books or submit reviews for consideration in the Hastings Center Report. Please contact us at, putting “books” in the subject line.

Mohini Banerjee is a research assistant at The Hastings Center.

Posted by Susan Gilbert at 10/29/2013 04:17:58 PM |


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