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Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   297
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 25, 2004
Publisher   AEI Press
ISBN  1594030472  
EAN  9781594030475  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
At the onset of Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, Leon Kass gives us a status report on where we stand today: "Human nature itself lies on the operating table, ready for alteration, for eugenic and psychic 'enhancement,' for wholesale redesign. In leading laboratories, academic and industrial, new creators are confidently amassing their powers and quietly honing their skills. For anyone who cares about preserving our humanity, the time has come for paying attention." Trained as a medical doctor and biochemist, Dr. Kass has become one of our most provocative thinkers on bioethical issues. In Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, he has written a book that grapples with the moral meaning of the new biomedical technologies now threatening to take us back to the future envisioned by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. In a series of mediations on cloning, embryo research, the sale of organs, and the assault on mortality itself, Kass questions the wisdom of trying to break down the natural boundaries given us and to remake the human body into an instrument of our will. He also attempts to chart a course by which we might avoid the dehumanization of biotechnical "recreationism" without rejecting modern science or rejecting its genuine contributions to human welfare. Leon Kass writes profoundly about the limits of science and the limits of life, about what makes us human and gives us human dignity. Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity.

Publishers Description
At the onset of "Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity," Leon Kass gives us a status report on where we stand today: "Human nature itself lies on the operating table, ready for alteration, for eugenic and psychic 'enhancement,' for wholesale redesign. In leading laboratories, academic and industrial, new creators are confidently amassing their powers and quietly honing their skills, while on the street their evangelists are zealously prophesying a posthuman future. For anyone who cares about preserving our humanity, the time has come for paying attention." Trained as a medical doctor and biochemist, Dr. Kass has become one of our most provocative thinkers on bioethical issues. Now, in this brave and searching book, he also establishes himself as a prophetic voice summoning us to think deeply about the new biomedical technologies threatening to take us back to the future envisioned by Aldous Huxley in "Brave New World." As in Huxley's dystopia, where life has been smoothed out by genetic manipulation, psychoactive drugs and high tech amusement, our own accelerating efforts to master reproduction and genetic endowment, to retard aging, and to conquer illness, imperfection, and death itself are animated by our most humane and progressive aspirations. But we are walking too quickly down the road to physical and psychological utopia, Kass believes, without pausing to assess the potential damage to our humanity from this brave new biology. In a series of meditations on cloning, embryo research, the human genome project, the sale of organs, and the assault on mortality itself, Kass evaluates the ongoing effort to break down the natural boundaries given us and to remake the human body into an instrument of our will. What does it mean to treat nascent human life as raw material to be exploited? What does it mean to blur the line between procreation and manufacture? What are the proper limits to this project for the remaking of human nature? These are the questions we should be asking to prevent runaway scientism with its utopian longings from reshaping humankind in the image of our own choosing. Kass believes that technology has done and will continue to do wonders for our health and longevity and that we have much to be thankful for. But there is more at stake in the biological revolution that saving life and avoiding death. We must also strive to protect the ideas and practices that give us dignity and keep us human. "Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity" challenges us to confront the posthuman future that may await us by thinking deeply about the life and death issues we face today.

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More About Leon R. Kass

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Leon R. Kass, MD, is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Hertog Fellow in Social Thought at the American Enterprise Institute. A member of the President's Council on Bioethics, he is the author or coauthor of five books, including, most recently, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics.

Leon R. Kass currently resides in the state of Illinois.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Ambitious in scope, thought provoking, at times repugnant  Jan 21, 2007
Admirable in its scope, Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity is an accessible, thought provoking text which is bound to hold any readers interest; Luddite or techno-enthusiast. Biologist and Chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, Leon Kass, discusses the impact of biotechnology on every phase of human life, from embryonic beginnings to the technological possibilities of immortality. No stone is left unturned. Despite his own conservative viewpoint Kass presents oppositional arguments in a balanced non-vindictive manner. Because of this, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dignity serves as a very helpful introduction to the pursuits and accomplishments of biotechnology as well as to the challenges posed to bioethics.

Kass's own position is not always persuasive and many, including myself, are bound to find his all too frequent appeals to Biblical authority out of place in this particular genre. Still, this approach serves Kass's overarching project of undermining undue confidence in technocratic rationalism. In the tradition of C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, which Kass frequently cites and serves as an essential compliment to this text, Kass works from outside the rationalist framework in order to subvert it. A position, Kass admits, which is difficult to argue from. Because of this, many of his arguments rely on pathos appeals, in particular the "ick" factor evoked by many of the desired ends of biotechnology, such as cloning. Further, Kass's conception of human nature which he seeks to defend in the name of human dignity comes right out of the book of Genesis and is therefore bound to ostracize many modern secular readers. Despite these debilitating flaws, Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity is a worthwhile read. Though the particular arguments it advances may be revolting to many readers, it is bound to expand the horizons of thought on the very controversial, relevant, and worthwhile topic of biotechnology and its ethical implications. Recommended.
Heart Felt Discussion of Life Issues  May 4, 2006
Life and dignity of it concern this author. As well, science and its advancement concern him greatly. What this book concerns itself with are the intersection of the two.

What Kass fears are that the two are moving in opposing directions, i.e. that science has moved beyond boundaries of investigating life in a dignified, respectful manner of life into an self fulfilling control and power over life.

He offers some foretaste of what could come in this statment: "Genetic technology, the practices it will engender, and above all the scientific teachings about human life on whit it rests are not, as many would have it, morally and humanly neutral. Regardless of how they are practiced or taught, they are pregnant with their own moral meaning, and will necessarily bring with them changes in our practices, our institutions, our norms, our beliefs and our self-conception. It is, I submit, these challenges to our dignity and humanity that are at the bottom of our anxiety over genetic science and technology."

He summarizes his concerns with the future of science in terms of boundaries and limits: pursuring limitless goals which many in culture has concerns about; props up artificial boundaries that are not true to life, thus working out of touch with reality; unsensitive to defeiencies of human reason and mysteries of life, its very subject.

He writes with concern that is balanced, spending time to put forward the other side's opinions and objections and desires and rights. And that's his real point, that we consider his main concern of life and its dignity.

Worth the read, although it is somewhat tedious at points, especially first half till get to current euthanasia and abortion.
Moral, ethical and spiritual dilemma...  Apr 2, 2005
Sometimes unfortunate sequence of events unfolds where things reach a boiling point and there are no obvious winners such that hearts end up being deeply wounded on both sides of the debate. The vicious cycle of mistrust and hate then keeps propagating, bitterly dividing people who in essence have similar noble intentions of compassion and upholding dignity of life and to mitigate human suffering but are looking at the same goal from different directions and are deeply caught in passionate emotions such that rational thought and desire toward compromise is relegated to the background. In times like these one needs to stand back and look at the big picture and at all the factors in play, not with the intent of vindictiveness and finger-pointing, but with the intent of bringing people together and to determine the direction in which a nation is headed.

Both scientific and religious considerations meet face to face at the beginning of our lives, through our daily lives and should therefore be considered together during the process of dying as well. During times of illness what constitutes medical intervention sustaining life and what in considered an unalienable right of every living being has to, unfortunately, be defined by mortal human beings. In this regard people of faith may differ from secular individuals and even religious bodies have to narrowly define these boundaries out of necessity of not leaving unambiguous guidelines.

1. If a person facing questions regarding end of life decisions has a living will or a durable power of attorney or when a person entitled to make decisions by proxy exists then in a democratic society the individual's wishes should trump all other considerations.

2. For patients who are not terminally ill, the moral argument to end life prematurely loses credibility and also one reaches a very slippery slope where the risk of things going awry is immense. On a secular level the argument boils down to individual rights vs. the responsibility of an individual towards people who would be personally affected by the decision and also towards common good of the society as a whole. Even if immense suffering can be demonstrated in the case of an individual inflicted by a chronic debilitating illness, this may serve as an example to others justifying suicide and legal precedence in this regard would open up the chances of people falling through the cracks. Ultimately, for any given society and nation, the law of the land reflecting the wishes of the majority of its people and upheld by an independent judiciary must be respected.

3. In the case of an unconscious person facing life and death issues where there is no reasonable hope of recovery (as evidenced by unbiased objective and subjective medical evidence) the patient's spouse followed by parents and siblings would be required to make the decision regarding actively initiating medical intervention to sustain life or to withdraw continuing medical interventions and therefore initiate the process of dying. Withdrawal of medial support certainly invokes more ethical and moral questions than the initial decision to not initiate support. In this regard the first priority would be the duty to honor the patient's implicitly or explicitly expressed wishes and the enormous burden of proof in this regard rests with the legally responsible family member making the decision. A consensus among family members after weighing in on the medical evidence presented to them by the physician regarding the overall prognosis is critical in order to obtain closure for all involved people. If there is a dispute among family members and the judiciary is involved in determining the patient's wishes and to exclude possible conflict of interest - an independent judicial system strictly interpreting the law and being completely independent of influences from the other two branches of the government is vital in upholding justice not only for the family members but ultimately for honoring the patient's wishes. The focus should never shift from the patient. If there is any reasonable doubt then a culture of erring towards life is desirable but has to be very carefully weighed against the grave concern of not honoring the patient's wishes and this burden lies with the responsible family member or members. Part of this burden of proof shifts to the judiciary when there is a dispute regarding the patient's wishes. However the legal process should never be influenced by the other branches of government and intervening for one individual opens up several ethical and moral questions regarding conflict of interest for those branches as well. At the end of the day if one truly believes in the dignity of every human life then no single individual should be used as a tool for religious, political or economic gains no matter how big the stakes. Rather, it should be a non-confrontational discussion at an ideological level.

4. What constitutes medical intervention is always debatable especially with rapidly advancing medical technology and new procedures and interventions being available. In terms of withholding food and water given my mouth, there appears to be little justification but when the same is accomplished by a medical procedure then that would appear to qualify as a medical intervention but probably morally justifiable for basic needs such as food and water and even for supplemental oxygen administered by non-invasive means. Ultimately religious or secular moral beliefs combined with weighing in on the overall prognosis and inevitability of death should be considered before either initiating or withdrawing support. Again taking into account what that person's implicitly or explicitly expressed wishes would trump all other considerations. In this regard ending the suffering and therefore preserving the dignity of the individual at the end stages of life when death is inevitable could be argued as a noble cause and prolonging the process and stalling the inevitable could be argued as going against the wishes of God for people of faith. For patient's lacking perception of pain (as collaborated by the medical evidence) then the argument of initiating a painful process of dying would also not be valid and if a person is believed to feel pain despite contrary medical evidence then debating that in a public arena would only compound the person's pain and suffering and undermine the dignity of that individual's life. For people of immense social and religious stature, love and respect for the individual would inculcate the desire to sustain life by artificial measures but the overall prognosis and hope of recovery to a point where that person would be able to regain the ability to resume the responsibilities would also need to be taken into consideration. If the process of dying is inevitable and drawing near then it is comforting to see serenity and calmness in letting go and to be One with the Creator.
Hope for the future  Apr 1, 2005
Moral questions regarding sanctity of life are sometimes larger than life itself. The debatable question is how to define life itself. Is a person in persistent vegetative state not alive? That depends on whether you consider life as being synonymous with the seat of consciousness - which is highly debatable. Yes, the mind defines our thoughts and shapes our identity but it can also be argued that the cerebral cortex should not be taken as what determines the distinction between life and death since the mind is only a part of every living individual. On the other hand questions regarding quality and dignity of life are not mutually exclusive from the question of end of life issues. Every individual should have the power to determine their end of life choices but only within the realms of the law of the land. It agains boils down to the urgent need for religion to meet with the realities of an ever changing modern world in a non-confrontational manner and if the need be, redifine the law of the land by the appropriate process.
Paperback edition blues. Time for a new editor.  Mar 21, 2005
There are so many publishing errors in the first paperback edition (2004) of Leon Kass's book that it is almost unreadable. It is obvious that no one even bothered to look at the book before sending it to retail.

Do a quick read of Chapter One and you will see what I mean. Sentences are left entirely unfinished from one page to the next, leaving the reader wondering how much other text has been omitted. Although page 35 starting with the word "nogoly" is pretty classy, my favorite example is the transition from page 37-38. Here, Dr. Kass is begins to frame an argument, but the sentence is never completed. Then, the next paragraph begins, "Crudely put, the argument could be stated this way." What way? Of course the irony is all the more poignant because this series of publishing mistakes follows Dr. Kass's meta-observation about the technology used in producing this very book. Good stuff.

I would not be nearly as concerned had this book not been a god-send for my present research project. But $17 later, I guess I have to track down a hardback copy in the hopes that I can actually read what Dr. Kass has written.

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