Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Upcoming book watch - The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life

I have beside me the Spring/Summer 2006 Trade Catalog from Prometheus Books, which features a fairly eclectic mix of titles, among them a book scheduled for March release: The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life, edited by Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti, with a foreword by Jay Wolfson. The authors are listed as being affiliated with University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. Caplan is also listed as the chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and "the author or editor of numerous books including The Ethics of Organ Transplants and Who Owns Life?" Dr. Wolfson was the court-appointed guardian ad litem for Terri Schiavo.

The write-up in this catalog causes me a bit of concern.

Well, judge for yourself. I'm not comfortable with the way the Catholic Church position is being represented (or misrepresented, in my view), among other things. You tell me. Reprinted from the Barnes & Noble website, an identical write-up to what is in the trade catalog:


After the Nancy Cruzan case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1990, and ultimately resolved by the Courts of the State of Missouri, the decision to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging nutrition and hydration appeared to many to be as noncontroversial as decisions to refuse respirators or dialysis. Even the Catholic Church held that, although there should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration, the patient or the patient's surrogate could overrule this presumption, if either believed the treatment was disproportionate or burdensome.

The Schiavo case changed all that. Although the decision to remove Terri Schiavo's nutrition and hydration was made by her husband-her legal surrogate-based on his wife's belief that such treatment was disproportionate, Schiavo's immediate family protested so much that the case took years to resolve. It eventually involved all branches of government at both the state and federal levels.

The ethical dilemmas that such cases pose continue to stir great controversy. This in-depth examination of these dilemmas provides information and documentation from many perspectives. The editors have included a foreword by Dr. Jay Wolfson, Terri Schiavo's court-appointed guardian ad litem, as well as Dr. Wolfson's report to Gov. Jeb Bush on the case and Gov. Bush's reply; public statements by President George Bush and Senators David Weldon, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Barney Frank; statements by the pope and other representatives of the Catholic Church on this issue; plus much medical and legal background material on both precedents to the Schiavo case and its aftermath, including the results of the autopsy report.

For anyone wishing an in-depth understanding of these complex ethical issues, issues many of us will have to confront in our own families, this volume is indispensable.

The publisher has announced, in the catalog I have, that there is a national marketing budget for this book, with national media appearances and a national advertising campaign planned. The book is due to come out in late March, but is already available for pre-order.

Case of Terri Schiavo
Case of Terri Schiavo

And, no, I don't know what to make of the cover. I have my theories, but I think I'll hold off broadcasting them until I find out more about the contents of the book, and see what the media campaign is like.


Bookworm said...

The only University affiliated ethicist who always springs to my mind when I hear about a university ethicist is Peter Singer. He's the one who says it's bad to kill animals, but okay for parents to have 30 days to decide whether to kill their disabled newborn. He also says it's okay to give birth to newborns to harvest their organs. I'm therefore on "ethical alert" when I hear about a book written by university ethicists, even if they're not Singer. It seems to me that, if he's the most respected guy in the field (and he's billed as such), the whole field is suspect.

Anonymous said...

well since the book is edited by caplan and two other catholics one of whom works at holy redeemer hospital in philadelphia and the other at villanova university maybe there is less to worry about then you think.

Kathryn Judson said...

Anonymous, I hope you're right. But I saw a lot of 'Catholics' turn a deaf ear to Rome when Terri needed help, so the fact that someone represents himself as Catholic doesn't reassure me as much as it might on this particular issue. Bookworm sounds more worried than I am, but she has a point. There are people out there, many of them in academia, who think that it's all right to sort people into 'human' and 'not human' or declare a disabled person 'better off dead', which is worlds away from not subjecting a dying person to futile medical care.