Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Book Review

A Defense of Dignity:
Creating life, Destroying Life, and Protecting the Rights of Conscience

Christopher Kaczor
University of Notre Dame Press
ISBN- 978-0268033262

This excellent work has rightly received endorsements from John Keown and Christopher Tollefson among others. Its approach to bioethics is from a natural law perspective and it examines the ethics of ectopic pregnancy, embryo adoption and ethics at the end of life among other topics.

In the chapter on ectopic pregnancy, Kaczor notes that in most cases where MXT is medically indicated, the death of the embryo has already occurred and thus MXT cannot be construed as abortion in such cases. However, he also notes that there is no consensus on the issue as yet.

Kaczor notes that the atheist Stephen Pinker rejects the principle of human dignity while making autonomy an absolute principle. He demonstrates the wrongness of this approach: "Pinker practices an ethics of exclusion according to which some human beings are disposable material for the use of other human beings."

Kaczor writes that Peter Singer has a mistaken understanding of Kant's theory of autonomy. For Singer, Kant's emphasis on rational functioning means that we cannot treat severely mentally retarded humans as ends and not means. Kaczor points out that for Kant all human beings have dignity due to their rational nature and not due to their rational functioning.

This is a highly readable defence of life.