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Good Care, Painful Choices: Medical Ethics for Ordinary People, Third Edition
by Richard J. Devine, CM

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An Ethical Look at Medicine
Author Interview with Fr. Richard Devine, C.M., Good Care, Painful Choices: Medical Ethics for Ordinary People, Third Edition
by Lisa M. Hendey

I recently conducted a Google search for the term “medical ethics” and garnered over 15 million hits.  In today’s world, complex beginning and end of life issues, advances in medical technology, and heightened media coverage abound.  It may be difficult to know where to turn to determine the Church’s teachings on medical ethics issues.  Along with reading Papal Encyclicals and staying abreast of statements by our Bishops and the Vatican, another helpful resource for Catholics is Good Care, Painful Choices: Medical Ethics for Ordinary People, Third Edition by Richard J. Devine, CM (Paulist Press, September 2004, paperback, 272 pages.)

Written in non-technical wording, Good Care, Painful Choices provides an accessible overview of many of the most common issues facing us today.  Father Devine, who recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination, has spent the bulk of his career in higher education and currently teaches Medical Ethics full time at St. John’s University. 

Fr. Devine shared the following comments on this newly published third edition of Good Care, Painful Choices

Q:  Fr. Devine, I greatly enjoyed the clear, comprehensive and not overly technical presentation of the medical ethics topics presented in this book.  Who is your intended audience for Good Care, Painful Choices?

A:  When I began teaching medical ethics, I searched in vain for a good textbook (to my way of thinking) but was never satisfied. I then began developing class notes and distributing them to the students (and overspending the dept. budget). Someone suggested I try to get these notes published – they were book-size by now. I chuckled but sent them off to Paulist Press and the rest is history. Even though the book is intended primarily as a textbook at the University level, it could also serve well for discussion groups or even individuals who are interested in the subject.

Q:  Medical technology advances at an incredibly quick pace, and as such, medical ethics issues grow ever more complex.  How does this third edition of your book differ from the previous editions?

A:  Well, it’s thicker! There are additions in almost every chapter (except the first 3) – partial birth abortion in that chapter, court decisions in connection with handicapped newborns, the advances in genetics and stem cell technology are a few examples. Then statistics from 1995 were no longer very relevant and so everything had to be updated.

Q:  As the title conveys, your book offers up each topic considered from five varying (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives.  How do you counsel Catholics who feel conflicted when faced with issues which are legally acceptable and generally accepted by our society's norms, but are contrary to Church teaching?

A:  Only about 1/3 of my students are Roman Catholics. The rest are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Orthodox, non-believers. I present the moral values involved in each issue (along with the Church’s teaching) and challenge them to come up with a better answer. Obviously, not all agree with me – not even the Catholics – but at least they have to think about the issues. They understand that legality and social acceptance do not make something morally correct.

Q:  The discussion questions which follow each chapter of the book provide a wonderful opportunity to consolidate and digest the information provided on each of the topics.  What is the benefit of taking the time to discuss or contemplate these questions?  Do you find a great variance in the response of students vs. "maturing" adults with greater longevity and life experience?

A:  I don’t have many “maturing adults” in my classes. The ones I do have, in many cases have experienced the issues personally, while my college-age students have not. Death, for example. The questions at the end of each chapter are meant to indicate the critical issues in the chapter.

Q:  If an individual has a family member who is a practicing Catholic and that family member has chosen to disregard the Church's teaching with respect to a particular medical decision, how should that individual respond while attempting to remain supportive?               

A:  People come first. If the individual is acting in good faith, always support the person while being free to disagree with his decision. Caring and compassion are always more powerful than accusation and guilt.

For more information on Good Care, Painful Choices  visit Amazon.



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