Health Care Ethics

A Catholic Theological Analysis

Fifth Edition

Benedict M. Ashley, OP, Jean deBlois, CSJ, and Kevin D. O'Rourke, OP

"This [book] can become a great teaching moment for the Church’s magisterium."
+ Add to Cart Preorder


Request Print Exam Copy

Request Digital Exam Copy

Health Care Ethics is a comprehensive study of significant issues affecting health care and the ethics of health care from the perspective of Catholic theology. It aims to help Christian, and especially Catholic, health care professionals solve concrete problems in terms of principles rooted in scripture and tested by individual experience; however, its basis in real medical experience makes this book a valuable resource for anyone with a general interest in health care ethics.

This fifth edition, which includes important contributions by Jean deBlois, C.S.J., considers everyday ethical questions and dilemmas in clinical care and deals more deeply with issues of women's health, mental health, sexual orientation, artificial reproduction, and the new social issues in health care. The authors devote special attention to the various ethical theories currently in use in the United States while clearly presenting a method of ethical decision making based in the Catholic tradition. They discuss the needs of the human person, outlining what it means to be human, both as an individual and as part of a community.

This volume has been significantly updated to include new discussions of recent clinical innovations and theoretical issues that have arisen in the field:

• the Human Genome Project
• efforts to control sexual selection of infants
• efforts to genetically modify the human genotype and phenotype
• the development of palliative care as a medical specialty
• the acceptance of non-heart beating persons as organ donors
• embryo development and stem cell research
• reconstructive and cosmetic surgery
• nutrition and obesity
• medical mistakes
• the negative effects of managed care on the patient-physician relationship
• recent papal allocution regarding care of patients in a persistent vegetative state and palliative care for dying patients

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations Used in the Text and in Citations

Part I: Health Care Ethics and Human Needs

1. Bioethics in a Multicultural Age
The Emergence of Secular Bioethics
The Foundations of the Ethics of Health Care
Current Methodologies in Bioethics
Faith and Reason in Health Care Ethics

2. Ethics and Needs of the Common Person
An Ethics Based on Innate Human Needs
Jesus Christ, Healer, as Ethical Model
Character and the Major Moral Virtues
Prudent Decision Making
Moral Norms Especially Relevant to Health Care

Part II: Clinical Issues

3. Sexuality and Reproduction
The Meaning of Human Sexuality
When Does Human Life Begin?
Ethical Issues in Reproduction
Pastoral Approach to Ethical Problems Arising from Sexuality

4. Reconstructing and Modifying the Human Body: Ethical Perspectives
Modifying the Human Body
Genetic Intervention
Genetic Screening and Counseling
Organ Transplantation
Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery
Experimentation and Research on Human Subjects

5. Mental Health: Ethical Perspective
What is Mental Health?
Medical/Surgical Therapies
The Christian Model of Mental Health
Ethical Problems in Mental Therapy

6.Suffering and Death: A Theological Perspective
Mystery of Death
Fear of Death
Defining Death
Truth Telling to the Dying
Care for the Corpse or Cadaver
Suicide, Assisted Suicide, and Euthanasia
Allowing to Die: Withholding or Withdrawing Life Support
Care of Permanently Unconscious Patients
Treatment of Pain

Part III: Social and Pastoral Responsibilities

7. Social Responsibility
Professions: Depersonalizing Trends
Characteristics of Medicine as a Profession
Health Care Counseling
Professional Communication and Confidentiality
The Political Situation of Health Care Today
Principles of Health Care Policy
Health Care Ethics and Public Policy
Responsibilities of Catholic Health Care Facilities

8. Pastoral Care
The Goals of Pastoral Ministry
Pastoral Care of the Health Care Staff
Pastoral Care and Ethical Counseling
Spiritual Counseling in Health Care
Celebrating the Healing Process



"While affirming Catholic Church teaching, [the editors] address controversies within the Catholic community and challenges from without . . . Provides a much-needed account of social responsibility and public policy as well as the sacramental and healing dimensions of true care."—America

"Clear, careful on reproductive and life issues and yet challenging, particularly in addressing matters of distributive justice and the social responsibility of health care systems and practitioners . . . the fifth edition offers an intriguing way of classifying ethical theories, a bit different from any traditional classification method I have seen to date."—Vision

"This [book] can become a great teaching moment for the Church’s magisterium."—The Thomist

"The fifth edition of this classic work is equal in its quality, if not better, than earlier versions . . . While this work is intellectually solid, deeply grounded in scripture, theology, a humanistic natural law tradition, and various ethical approaches to bioethics, this book is remarkably 'user friendly.' I recommend this text for educated adults, undergraduates and graduate ministerial students."—Catholic Library World

"What was already a stellar theological compendium of health care ethics a decade ago has been fully revised to meet the challenges of a new century, from the genome project, adult and embryonic stem cell research and genetic therapies to new controversies over end-of-life care. Clearly rooted in the Catholic, natural law and personalist traditions, it astutely weighs diverse opinions within Catholicism, as well as alternative approaches from other Christian and non-religious thinkers . . . A treasure."—John F. Kavanaugh, SJ, Director of Ethics Across the Curriculum, Saint Louis University

"This is the most thorough revision to date of Ashley and O’Rourke’s classic analysis of Catholic health care ethics. For Catholics 'doing' health care ethics or those wanting to understand Catholic thinking on foundational and controversial issues in health care it is an invaluable reference and should be in every library. Adding Jean deBlois as a third author brings a critical and new voice to this volume."—Carol R. Taylor, CSFN, RN, Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Benedict M. Ashley, OP, a priest of the Dominican Order, Chicago Province, is Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. He is a senior fellow of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. He has been honored with the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice conferred by John Paul II and the Thomas Linacre Award from the National Federation of Catholic Physicians' Guilds. He is coautor of Ethics of Health Care: An Introductory Textbook, Third Edition (with Kevin O'Rourke, OP).

Jean deBlois, CSJ, is director of the Master of Arts in Health Care Mission program at Aquinas Institute of Theology. She also acts as sponsor liaison to Ascension Health for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and serves on the Ascension Health Board of Directors. She is a former Vice President for Mission and Sponsorship at the Catholic Health Association.

Kevin O'Rourke, OP, is professor emeritus and founder of the Center for Health Care Ethics at the Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center. He is a professor of bioethics at the Neiswanger Institute of Bioethics and Public Policy, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University, Chicago. He is author of Medical Ethics: Sources of Catholic Teachings, Third Edition and coauthor of A Primer for Health Care Ethics: Essays for a Pluralistic Society, Second Edition.

352 pp., 7 x 10

Nov 2006

352 pp., 7 x 10

ISBN: 978-1-58901-116-8
Nov 2006

352 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-337-7
Nov 2006

Related Titles