Medicine And Books

Who Owns Our Bodies? Making Moral Choices in Health Care

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 15 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:527

John Spiers Radcliffe Medical Press, £17.50, pp 97 ISBN 1 85775 210 4

This slim but thoughtful volume is a work of scholarship. John Spiers, chairman of the Patients Association, has thought deeply about issues of life and death and moral choices in health care. The book is based on a public lecture in which he gave tentative and qualified support for voluntary euthanasia. He has added an introduction and afterward. The book is clearly written, readable, and heavily referenced to the works of philosophers and moral ethicists: many readers will find the arguments persuasive.

Why, then, did I feel disappointed, even dissatisfied? There are three reasons. Firstly, while the author trained as an historian and not as a philosopher, his writing style is philosophical, though he never falls into the trap defined by Scruton who said that a delusion of modernism is the belief that incomprehensibility is a mark of authority. Spiers's views are wholly comprehensible, but after analysing and dissecting the many problems raised by euthanasia and related topics with care and authority his argument seems circuitous. He poses innumerable questions but, in the earlier pages at …

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