Book Reviews by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Professor Keown then presents the case against legalizing assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. He argues that the safeguards in place where euthanasia is already legal have been "illusory." In the Netherlands, for example, being depressed or being tired of life is reason enough for becoming a candidate for euthanasia. Besides, the Dutch flout their own guidelines.
Keown also reminds us that clinicians are autonomous beings who make specific clinical decisions.
Why should they withhold euthanasia from a patient who in their opinion requires it simply because the patient
has not requested it? The slippery slope is both a practical and logical one. He further reminds us that Professor
Jackson has already stated prior to this debate that only certain human beings qualify as "persons."
Clinicians with this belief are unlikely to suffer disquiet after disposing of "non-persons" who are
unable to consent to their own demise. One is reminded of the case of Tony Bland who was effectively de-personalized
by the Courts prior to being put to death.
Given that neither author read what the other wrote, the overall work is coherent and flows well. This work is informative and a welcome summary of the arguments for and against legalizing euthanasia.
Fr Mullady notes that ethics is dependant on a realistic metaphysics. However, beginning with Descartes, there has been a "turn to the subject" instead of the object as the source of truth.The scepticism of Hume is discussed as well as the subjectivism of Kant. Max Scheler's ultimately futile attempt to redress the balance is discussed : Scheler failed to recognize a real objective universal human nature. We thus end in moral relativism.
The nature of moral theology as the study of the free actions of man as made in the image of God is then discussed. For some moral theologians, moral theology is all about obligation and not about acting for happiness. The author notes that Catholic tradition has never been of this opinion.
There is a helpful critique of the errors of Rahner and McCormick among others. Their false understanding of moral principles leads to moral subjectivism and relativism. The theories discussed include proportionalism and the fundamental option.
Fr Mullady makes a balanced and fair assessment of the beliefs of the new natural law theorists who are on the side of tradition when it comes to issues such as abortion and contraception.
However, they fail to accept that real universals can be derived from the sense experience of man and which could be applied to specific human actions.
There are chapters on law, conscience, virtue, sin and grace.
This is a beautiful, reflective work.
It is noted in this informative booklet that adult stem cells are those found in existing adult tissue whereas embryonic stem cells are developed from human embryos destroyed in the process. The use of embryonic stem cells is therefore unethical. However it is not only for ethical reasons that we should favour adult stem cell therapy but for clinical reasons as well. Many people are being treated for a range of conditions already with adult stem cell, including lymphoma and heart disease. The science of using adult stem cells is more advanced in comparison to the alternative and the future in this area is, as the authors note, bright.
In contrast, Dr Mauceri believes that even the most common psychological problems such as anxiety needs to be perceived as something mysterious and which has a direct bearing on the spiritual condition of the person. In other words, the doctor must believe in the soul. After many years of clinical experience, Dr Mauceri has concluded that anxiety is itself a symptom of a deeper struggle and often relates to a fear of death.
Dr Mauceri is rightly critical of the superficialities of New Age spiritualities as well as "undirected
" psychotherapy. The latter refers to the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers and colleagues that has had
such a negative impact within the Church. Dr Mauceri is equally critical of behaviour therapy which rejects free
will and so the existence of a moral order.
The nihilism which Nietzsche foresaw is really the death of meaning. The meaningless individualism we hear proclaimed widely today ( one thinks of the slogan "my body, my choice" ) is a direct consequence of this nihilism. Without meaning, there is dread and anxiety. Dr Mauceri argues that only the Judeo-Christian world view can deal coherently with the problems of dread, suffering and evil.
So the ultimate choice is God or nihilism. The source of consolation for mankind is not therapy but the healing
truths of religion. Dr Mauceri writes that " We are genetically religious, and all men seek to worship something.
" Only a strong faith grounded in truth, love, reason and psychological maturity prepares us to " go
forth in courage and prudence. "
The problem with psychotherapy is not there is too much of it but there is not enough of the right sort. This is a book that I will be returning to again and again.