Life and Death

Philippa Foot

  • The End of Life by James Rachels
    Oxford, 196 pp, £12.95, January 1986, ISBN 0 19 217746 X
  • Voluntary Euthanasia edited by A.B. Downing and Barbara Smoker
    Peter Owen, 303 pp, £14.95, February 1986, ISBN 0 7206 0651 9
  • Moral Dilemmas in Modern Medicine edited by Michael Lockwood
    Oxford, 250 pp, £12.95, January 1986, ISBN 0 19 217743 5

Most professional philosophers think of themselves primarily as scholars, as hunters and gatherers in the field of understanding with no particular commitment to serve society in any other role. Yet some philosophers have lately found to their delight that they can be useful: indeed that their advice is actually sought by those who have to take decisions of policy or practice. So now in England we have the Warnock Report, while in America philosophers advising hospital ethics committees have been known to carry bleepers to summon them to conferences on matters of life and death. Medical ethics – a subject unheard of only a few decades ago – is lately the main growth area in philosophical publishing, with books, anthologies and journals on subjects such as abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation tumbling out at a prodigious rate.

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