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In the face of rapid advances in medical research and treatment, bioethics has become a serious social concern. Originally published in 1996 and later chosen by World magazine as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century, Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics covers a wide range of pressing bioethical issues and offers discerning guidance on how Christians ought to think In the face of rapid advances in medical research and treatment, bioethics has become a serious social concern. Originally published in 1996 and later chosen by World magazine as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century, Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics covers a wide range of pressing bioethical issues and offers discerning guidance on how Christians ought to think about them.In admirably clear language Meilaender discusses abortion, assisted reproduction, genetic advance and prenatal screening, care for the dying and euthanasia, human experimentation, and more. This new edition of his Bioethics features updated information throughout, a fuller discussion of human embryos — including stem cell research — and a thorough rewrite of the chapter on organ donation.


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In the face of rapid advances in medical research and treatment, bioethics has become a serious social concern. Originally published in 1996 and later chosen by World magazine as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century, Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics covers a wide range of pressing bioethical issues and offers discerning guidance on how Christians ought to think In the face of rapid advances in medical research and treatment, bioethics has become a serious social concern. Originally published in 1996 and later chosen by World magazine as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century, Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics covers a wide range of pressing bioethical issues and offers discerning guidance on how Christians ought to think about them.In admirably clear language Meilaender discusses abortion, assisted reproduction, genetic advance and prenatal screening, care for the dying and euthanasia, human experimentation, and more. This new edition of his Bioethics features updated information throughout, a fuller discussion of human embryos — including stem cell research — and a thorough rewrite of the chapter on organ donation.

30 review for Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

  1. 4 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    The main thing that hampers this book is its brevity. The author raise some good points, points out things that need to be discussed, raises a couple of eyebrows, and then just leaves you hanging without any real solutions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ben Franks

    This is a beautifully written book on the complex world of bioethics from the pen of a thinker who is deeply immersed in the Christian tradition. Gilbert Meilaender writes as a conservative Lutheran (LCMS) ethicist but he grounds his ethical reflections in the broad sweep of Christian thought. I don't agree with all of his judgment calls (I think he's a bit too broad on abortion and a bit too narrow on organ donation and prenatal screening, amongst other things) but getting his "take" on the iss This is a beautifully written book on the complex world of bioethics from the pen of a thinker who is deeply immersed in the Christian tradition. Gilbert Meilaender writes as a conservative Lutheran (LCMS) ethicist but he grounds his ethical reflections in the broad sweep of Christian thought. I don't agree with all of his judgment calls (I think he's a bit too broad on abortion and a bit too narrow on organ donation and prenatal screening, amongst other things) but getting his "take" on the issues is hardly the point. The purpose of the book is to provide a Christian framework for making ethical decisions and then to tease out the implications of that framework in light of the various ethical issues of the day. In that sense, the first chapter "Christian Vision" is the most important and helpful part of the whole book. In it, Meilaender carefully shows how the assumptions that the Christian brings to the world stand in such stark contrast to the views of modern culture. While contemporary Westerners build many of their ethical decisions on the pillars of individualist autonomy and a conviction that suffering it to be avoided at all costs, Meilaender reminds us that the Bible takes a very different view. While individuality is cherished, individualism is rejected. Man is never autonomous or independent. Indeed, dependence and need are integral aspects of the human experience and so alongside of our stress on freedom must come a corresponding embrace of our creaturely finitude. Perhaps most counter-culturally of all, the Bible views suffering as both lamentable (as a result of the fall) yet also redeemable (through the gift of God's grace). Because God delights to sanctify our suffering we do not accept the idea that suffering is an evil which must be resisted at any cost. These core assumptions have huge implications for how we deal with ethical issues and quandaries - from issues of fertility and conception to questions about organ donation and euthanasia. While thoughtful Christians will apply these principles differently, it is important to ground our discussion in the basic paradigm of the Bible. Meilaender does a helpful job of reminding us of that foundation and of showing us at least some of the ways it can be worked out in life and death.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Will Payne

    Meilaender's approach to bioethics is substantially different from my own, and from that of many other Christians. However, I believe that his concerns are still valuable, and should be respected as important parts of the ongoing bioethics debate within the Christian community. Reading this book was an interesting experience. In perhaps 2/3 of the chapters, I found myself in strong agreement with Meilaender and was impressed by the detail and depth of his insights. Such sections included his stan Meilaender's approach to bioethics is substantially different from my own, and from that of many other Christians. However, I believe that his concerns are still valuable, and should be respected as important parts of the ongoing bioethics debate within the Christian community. Reading this book was an interesting experience. In perhaps 2/3 of the chapters, I found myself in strong agreement with Meilaender and was impressed by the detail and depth of his insights. Such sections included his stances on refusing treatment, assisted suicide, and human experimentation. However, in the remaining 1/3 of the book, it seemed to me that Meilaender was ignoring very significant details. His positions on adoption, prenatal screening, and organ donation do not seem to be grounded in medical fact or Biblical truth. I believe that some of my differences with Meilaender may arise from different theological backgrounds. My background is Reformed, while Meilaender is a Lutheran. Lutherans generally have a very different approach to culture than Reformed individuals, which may account for some of the oddities that I encountered. This divide is especially significant with respect to adoption. Meilander believes that adoption is a sign of brokenness in the world because it is not a creational norm. I believe that adoption is a sign of redemption and a symbol of the Church's "adoption" into God.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Crouch

    Whilst this is a good book for introducing many topics in Bioethics, I was expecting more when it comes to “a primer for Christians”. It comes across to me as far too legalistic, in that it is telling us as Christians what viewpoints we should have on various matters. Note that I agree with the Author in many (if not most) of his ethical stands, however I was expecting more Biblical arguments, as well as a wrestling with some of the topics - rather than be told that Christians should not do “thi Whilst this is a good book for introducing many topics in Bioethics, I was expecting more when it comes to “a primer for Christians”. It comes across to me as far too legalistic, in that it is telling us as Christians what viewpoints we should have on various matters. Note that I agree with the Author in many (if not most) of his ethical stands, however I was expecting more Biblical arguments, as well as a wrestling with some of the topics - rather than be told that Christians should not do “this” or support “that”. There are some fine ethical discussions, especially in the later chapters - and in fact the book comes across a bit more as an apologetic for an already established Christian ethic - as in here is the argument to use for your stand when confronted by others. I would’ve preferred more on, why should I as a 21st Century Christian have this particular stand. I was also bothered, that many Christians who read this book may “discover” that they had “unknowingly” done unethical (thus sinful) things. The Author seems to say little about the Grace of God, and the Forgiveness achieved through our Lord and Saviour’s death and resurrection :( Given that this book says it is for Christians, to omit the Gospel in this way seems to be a major oversight - just add an appendix on this!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I deeply appreciated the structure and content of the book. Before addressing the big topics in bioethics today (physician assisted suicide, abortion, stem cell research, genetic engineering, and organ donation, among others) Meilaender articulates a Christian vision for the human being, living an embodied existence in community and in the midst of a broken world. Throughout this book Meilaender brings us back to questions of human dignity and purpose. I found his “procreation versus reproductio I deeply appreciated the structure and content of the book. Before addressing the big topics in bioethics today (physician assisted suicide, abortion, stem cell research, genetic engineering, and organ donation, among others) Meilaender articulates a Christian vision for the human being, living an embodied existence in community and in the midst of a broken world. Throughout this book Meilaender brings us back to questions of human dignity and purpose. I found his “procreation versus reproduction” chapter very helpful and enlightening in thinking through the ways mankind has understood the purpose and role of children and parenthood. I cried in the section about prenatal screening and organ donation from infants with severe disabilities and limited life, not just because the content was heavy, but because the implications for human life and human meaning are so profound. What are humans for? What makes a life worthy?

  6. 5 out of 5

    HomemakerMD

    This volume was smaller than some of the other Christian bioethics texts I read recently, but its content is rich and deep. The writing was clear and fluid, the arguments scriptural and didn’t simply skim the surface but grappled with the tough questions. The first chapter, titles “Christian Vision”, was an excellent overview of the general approach Christians take to life, death, suffering and medicine. I appreciated the segment on suffering, which began with the phrase, “At the heart of Chris This volume was smaller than some of the other Christian bioethics texts I read recently, but its content is rich and deep. The writing was clear and fluid, the arguments scriptural and didn’t simply skim the surface but grappled with the tough questions. The first chapter, titles “Christian Vision”, was an excellent overview of the general approach Christians take to life, death, suffering and medicine. I appreciated the segment on suffering, which began with the phrase, “At the heart of Christian belief lies a suffering, crucified God.”(pg 7) His approach to suffering was as an evil thing and yet a thing that does not lack purpose, and he pointed out that to make the alleviation of suffering the highest goal of life would be to ignore that it does serve a purpose. The second chapter, “Procreation versus Reproduction,” contained a discussion of the new technologies involved in assisted reproductions, with a description of the change in thinking that has occurred even among Christians in the shift from viewing children as a gift verses a product to be tinkered with and produced. He discussed the significance of the biological bond, and I loved his description of the child as “God’s ‘yes’ to… mutual self-giving.” His contrast of this with the assisted reproduction using third parties in which “the lines of kinship are confused” was clear, and his reasons for Christians to reject the participant of a third party in assisted reproduction were reasonable. However it seemed his arguments against the use of assisted reproduction without third parties seemed to lack weight, resting mainly on the vague idea that “instrumentation” of the body is questionable morally. The last section in the chapter dealt with how Christians ought to approach having children in general, which can be well summarized with “Without in any way undervaluing the presence of children, we should also be free of the idolatrous desire to have them at any cost—as our project rather than God’s gift.” (p 23) The discussion in the “Abortion” chapter surrounding the beginning of life and personhood was one I found to be well-rounded and informative. The only point at which I was hesitant to agree was on page 34, where the author discussed pregnancy resulting from cases of incest or force. He extended grace to these situations where pregnancy could be considered to be a continuation of the initial attack upon the woman involved, but I would have appreciated a more balanced approach to this complex and difficult scenario. It seems that there are times when the birth of a child can for the victim of violence be a way of redemption of the crime committed against her. Even in cases where she does not have the resources, emotionally or otherwise, to raise the child, there are so many waiting would-be parents it would be a loss to end this life in the womb. The discussion of prenatal screening seemed to be an exception to the rest of the book, in that it was medically dated and simplistic. First, the use of amniocentesis is certainly not the routine way pregnancies are screened—they are the exception rather than the rule. Usually blood tests are performed initially and only followed by an amniocentesis if needed for positive blood test results. The number of false positives for such tests is high, leading many couples to panic needlessly and probably other couples to choose abortion. But if the Christian uses prenatal diagnosis in a prayerful and thoughtful manner, in the setting of risk factors such as advanced maternal age, the Christian family can both prepare themselves for the arrival of a child with special needs and also consider whether prenatal treatments/surgery or special delivery plans necessary. The author didn’t discuss these possibilities at all. The discussion regarding the Christian and autonomy and suffering in later chapters was excellent. The culture of medicine has so profoundly tempered public thinking as to assume the priority of autonomy and self-determination over the life of surrender (i.e. that of a Christian to his God). In the chapter on “Refusing Treatment” I was initially somewhat disappointed. This issue of when to stop treatment is so complex and difficult to answer that some level of medical knowledge is needed to be able to give the discussion value. It was clear to me on page 67 that the author did not know the evidence surrounding the use of opiates during the end of life. I have done literature reviews in the past on this subject and read a good portion of the medical literature on this topic, and studies that actually suggest that appropriate management with opiates at the end of life actually extends the life longer than if pain goes undertreated. Also it is known that the body requires rapidly increasing doses of opiates to control pain during those final days and hours. But I appreciated the author’s note that “Life is not our god, but a gift from God; death is a great evil, but not the ultimate evil.” (p68). I also appreciated the way that the author distinguished rejecting a burdensome treatment versus rejecting a burdensome life (as in the case of a patient in a vegetative state). And in the end the section of the chapter on “Truth-telling” was worth its weight in gold for the way in which, particularly in the way in which he cautioned against suggesting to a patient that his condition is hopeless. The remainder of the book contained thought-provoking discussions about organ donation, human experimentation, embryo research, and concluded with a discussion of the providence of God at work in health and in sickness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    3.5 stars if I could. The discussions are helpful to spur on reflection of the given topics. He waxes a bit too far on individualism for my tastes, and he doesn’t define dignity or value - a problem among many religious writers today. Some of his conclusions are premature, given the brief accounts he paints. I find myself being more open to scientific advances that give us control over the body. The negative reasons Gilbert provides for abstaining from, say, screening do not sufficiently outweig 3.5 stars if I could. The discussions are helpful to spur on reflection of the given topics. He waxes a bit too far on individualism for my tastes, and he doesn’t define dignity or value - a problem among many religious writers today. Some of his conclusions are premature, given the brief accounts he paints. I find myself being more open to scientific advances that give us control over the body. The negative reasons Gilbert provides for abstaining from, say, screening do not sufficiently outweigh their benefits.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This book is an excellent introduction to multiple bioethical (medical) issues that our societies will increasingly face in the 21st century. Meilaender's writing is insightful and concise, biblically and philosophically informed. There was only one issue where I found him inconsistent (and wrong). Pastors, thoughtful Christians, and especially those working in the medical field, will benefit from the contents of this book. This book is an excellent introduction to multiple bioethical (medical) issues that our societies will increasingly face in the 21st century. Meilaender's writing is insightful and concise, biblically and philosophically informed. There was only one issue where I found him inconsistent (and wrong). Pastors, thoughtful Christians, and especially those working in the medical field, will benefit from the contents of this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Luke Stamps

    Excellent introduction to a range of bioethical issues, from reproductive technologies and abortion to euthanasia and end-of-life decisions. Meilaender is well-versed in the concepts and categories of Christian theology and brings them to bear on these issues in an unapologetically Christian way. He warns about ethical dilemmas that many Christians have not adequately considered, such as the problems raised by IVF, advance directives, and organ donation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Teal

    This book introduces important topics; Meilaender states his points then moves to the next topic. If Primer is meant to stick your toe into the deep water, then this book succeeds. However, many of these topics require a full immersion to become familiar enough to conclude for self and not just be led by the nose.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    A very good introduction to the subject. All arguments for and against are given a consideration and the author does well to put a Christian perspective across. He is in no doubt, Christian perspectives will be challenged, for this reason a clear and positive argument is very helpful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Landon

    Not the easiest writing to follow, and I didn't agree with all conclusions but it was a very interesting look at the complexities of the ethical dilemmas rampant in science. Some hit home personally with the chapters on human embryos and human experimentation. Not the easiest writing to follow, and I didn't agree with all conclusions but it was a very interesting look at the complexities of the ethical dilemmas rampant in science. Some hit home personally with the chapters on human embryos and human experimentation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zach Hollifield

    Excellent. While I do not agree with every conclusion Meilaender comes to on certain issues, I do respect that he does land somewhere and can defend such a position from a Christian standpoint. Best brief book I’ve read on bioethics.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Reyna

    I had to read this for class. To me it was judgmental and the author's views are too extreme I had to read this for class. To me it was judgmental and the author's views are too extreme

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mario Tafferner

    A very sophisticated introduction to Christian bioethics. Meilaender explores bioethical issues within the context of human freedom and finitude and provides deep theological thinking.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Every thoughtful Christian should read this. It's short, and even when you don't agree, it will help you think through your positions. Every thoughtful Christian should read this. It's short, and even when you don't agree, it will help you think through your positions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    I think I expected something different out of this book. As I read this in an academic environment, I really missed the scientific approach to ethical problems - albeit from a Christian standpoint.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Flynn Evans

    An exquisite evangelical account for holding to a theology of embodiment in modern bioethics.

  19. 4 out of 5

    E

    Parts were excellent, such as introductory remarks concerning our creation as finite yet free creatures, the reality of suffering, and the goodness of medicine. Chapters on abortion, suicide,prenatal screening, and embryonic research were right on. I found him a bit more conservative than myself on the topics of IVF, surrogacy, etc., but I've never spent the time to really think through those issues properly. So his chapters there were helpful. He questions such techniques, although not birth con Parts were excellent, such as introductory remarks concerning our creation as finite yet free creatures, the reality of suffering, and the goodness of medicine. Chapters on abortion, suicide,prenatal screening, and embryonic research were right on. I found him a bit more conservative than myself on the topics of IVF, surrogacy, etc., but I've never spent the time to really think through those issues properly. So his chapters there were helpful. He questions such techniques, although not birth control. Most helpful for me as a pastor was the chapter concerning end-of-life decisions. One must really consider his goals when facing these questions. For instance, do you end treatment because the life is no longer worth living? Probably not a good reason. Do you end treatment to salvage the quality of life remaining? Probably a much better reason. Are the measures you're pursuing ordinary or extraordinary? Lots of good things to think through here.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This book is an helpful way of re-envisioning many things we take somewhat for granted in medical practice today. Meilaender focuses more on issues pertaining to the beginning of life - to fertility, and embryos - than to issues at the end of life. However, the discussion of issues related to transplantation is interesting. The basic focus is on reintegrating mind and body, and viewing all humans as innately worthy of love. Regarding end of life issues, he sounds nearly Aristotlean in proposing This book is an helpful way of re-envisioning many things we take somewhat for granted in medical practice today. Meilaender focuses more on issues pertaining to the beginning of life - to fertility, and embryos - than to issues at the end of life. However, the discussion of issues related to transplantation is interesting. The basic focus is on reintegrating mind and body, and viewing all humans as innately worthy of love. Regarding end of life issues, he sounds nearly Aristotlean in proposing a spectrum in which overutilization of technology in the face of death is idolatry and hastening death in the face of overriding needs and desires is similarly idolatrous, so that we should aim for a mean. Much of what he says provides guiding principles rather than answers, but he is also quite directive at times.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I did not like this book. To begin with, my opinion is that a good study of bioethics should not be shaped by the current state of medical proficiency. Current capabilities may lend new facts which can be incorporated, but this book shows its age, especially in genetic questions. Meilaender writes for a Christian audience. In so doing, he raises the obvious points of respect for Christian teach of ethics and morality rather than blind obedience to the furthest permissible stretches of the law, a I did not like this book. To begin with, my opinion is that a good study of bioethics should not be shaped by the current state of medical proficiency. Current capabilities may lend new facts which can be incorporated, but this book shows its age, especially in genetic questions. Meilaender writes for a Christian audience. In so doing, he raises the obvious points of respect for Christian teach of ethics and morality rather than blind obedience to the furthest permissible stretches of the law, and discusses controversies that one would expect to be covered. Unfortunately, the book reads like a catechism of teaching regarding current controversies, instead of probing deeply the question of "Why?" in most cases.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sadie

    I don't know how to rate this book. The writing was clear and concise but I so strongly disagree with all of his points (he's way to conservative for me). In fact I think they're wrong really really wrong. I was also put off by his authoritative attitude. The suggestion that this book is "...what we Christians ought to say in order to be faithful to the truth that has claimed us in Jesus" (xii) I'm a Christian and I don't think this book is what we need to be faithful to. I'm still hoping to find I don't know how to rate this book. The writing was clear and concise but I so strongly disagree with all of his points (he's way to conservative for me). In fact I think they're wrong really really wrong. I was also put off by his authoritative attitude. The suggestion that this book is "...what we Christians ought to say in order to be faithful to the truth that has claimed us in Jesus" (xii) I'm a Christian and I don't think this book is what we need to be faithful to. I'm still hoping to find a progressive book on Bioethics from a Christian perspective.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nyjb Reviews

    Dr. Gilbert Meilander has been at the forefront of the development of Christian bioethics for decades and has made many contributions in both the private and public arenas. The fact that this book is in its third edition (the first edition was published in 1996) is a powerful tribute to the great usefulness of Dr. Meilander’s thinking. Some of the topics have been . . . ">Read the full book review of Bioethics: A Primer for Christians by author Gilbert Meilaender at New York Journal of Books Dr. Gilbert Meilander has been at the forefront of the development of Christian bioethics for decades and has made many contributions in both the private and public arenas. The fact that this book is in its third edition (the first edition was published in 1996) is a powerful tribute to the great usefulness of Dr. Meilander’s thinking. Some of the topics have been . . . ">Read the full book review of Bioethics: A Primer for Christians by author Gilbert Meilaender at New York Journal of Books

  24. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    This was a good introduction to the subject of bioethics from a Christian perspective. I liked the fact that he broke up chapters by taking on one issue at a time. I also liked that he offered his own clearly-stated, unambiguous conclusions about each issue he addressed. It was definitely just an overview though, so it left me wanting more in terms of depth.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    Fantastic. Very readable, but not at the expense of thoroughness. It canvasses a vast array of issues, but I didn't feel overwhelmed/assaulted with information - partly due to his skilful written expression, partly due to his sustenance of some core themes which he kept returning to. I'm not a sciencey type, but I found this very helpful. Fantastic. Very readable, but not at the expense of thoroughness. It canvasses a vast array of issues, but I didn't feel overwhelmed/assaulted with information - partly due to his skilful written expression, partly due to his sustenance of some core themes which he kept returning to. I'm not a sciencey type, but I found this very helpful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    Read this if you want some info on dealing with bioethics issues. The goal here is not having all the answers but knowing what questions to grapple with.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Great book concerning the contradictory issues with biblical answers. I loved it, it was very thought-provoking.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    A well-written introduction. A brief book with a lot of depth.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Justin Dillehay

    Easy to read layman's intro to bioethics. Easy to read layman's intro to bioethics.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth J.

    Excellent introductory survey to many/most of the current issues in the area of bioethics.

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