Due Consideration: Controversy in the Age of Medical Miracles

Arthur L. Caplan, Author, Caplan, Author
Arthur L. Caplan, Author, Caplan, Author John Wiley & Sons $30.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-471-18344-0
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Pick your controversy--be it euthanasia, genetic cloning or abortion, this collection of newspaper columns touches on it. Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, has plenty of issues to work with, and he treats almost all in short pieces of fewer than two pages. The resulting mix is divided into sections by topic (such as ""Rationing Cost"" and ""The Ethics of Research""), but still makes for choppy reading. Mickey Mantle's controversial liver transplant and the Tuskegee experiments on African-American men with syphilis are mentioned in passing in some columns, then discussed at length in others. For the most part, Caplan merely raises a problem, then restates conventional wisdom (physicians should make patient care decisions in HMOs; defining death is not simple in this technological age; etc.). Since the columns took their cues from the daily news, some seem dated (more references to O.J., anyone?) or unclear now that the original news story has faded from memory. There are glimmers of intriguing ideas here and there; perhaps the most compelling are Caplan's discussions of the dangers of privatizing medical research or what it means for society that racial differences are barely noticeable on a genetic level. Had Caplan reworked these 111 mini-pieces into fewer, longer essays, his insights would have been more coherent and powerful. (Dec.)
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