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mean that practicing physicians should buy the book and expend the effort necessary to master its contents? I think not, simply because we can no longer be "an island sufficient to ourselves." We have to improve professional communication with the pharmacists who are the real experts in pharmacokinetics, just as we have to lean heavily on their assistance in providing the products of the pharmaceutical industry, and just as we have always relied on so many other paramedical personnel who are not themselves corporate members of the professional body of physicians. Jacobus W. Mostert, M.D. University of Chicago Life or Death—Who Controls'? Edited by Nancy C. Ostheimer and John M. Ostheimer. New York: Springer Publishing Co., 1976. Pp. 308. $7.95. Who controls what? This book is an exploration of phenomena and problems which have recently received a great deal of attention and verbiage. It deals with certain questions related to life—genetics, abortion, euthanasia, and compulsory sterilization. (Organ transplantation, closely related, is not taken up here.) In fact, the keynote is in the preface—that Western societies stress the dignity and preservation of human life. But that is true in words only, and these words are in constant dissonance with practices. Examples are all around us. Even in the exploration of the questions pertaining to preservation of life, I submit that commonly we do not use the appropriate methods for our investigations. For example, we attempt to show the proper persona by speaking of compassion and ethics and giving courses in the latter. I believe that one cannot teach compassion , which is the expression from the soul of an individual. It is like trying to teach love. In connection with these vital topics we should bear in mind the following: Whatever one wants to convey successfully one can enshrine in words that purr to the ear; that they may slur the soul is another matter. If you cloak what you express in scientific cloth it will enhance its credibility. In fact, science will help you by setting up a statistical procedure; science bestows legitimacy. History will also come to your aid by giving you a precedent. Too, it can give you a contrary precedent should you need it for support of an opposite view. Thus history intrinsically has the morality of an advocate, even when it tells the truth; or, to put it another way, what we believe is the truth. These caveats should be kept in mind when dealing with matters such as abortion, euthanasia, suicide, rewards, punishments, forgiveness, etc. One of the scientific instruments against which I inveigh and which is successfully used to defend tendentious positions is sophism. It often masquerades under the name of logic. Another expediency, often calledjustice, is rigidity and self-righteousness. Even logic is not necessarily the proper instrument to resolve such inflammatory topics as abortion, for example. One must come with tabula rasa, not with totems and taboos, in resolving such vital problems. Then, too, we must look into our own selves before attacking the problems. For example, if one would not "pull the plug" on one's own parent who is terminally sick, how can one cavalierly justify pulling it on someone else's parPerspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Winter 1977 | 311 ent? By the same token, assuming that one is a pillar of society and a proponent ofjustice (always a safe though not necessarily an honest stance) who insists on legislating severe penalties for drug abusers, would he follow the same party line if his own son were involved? These are merely some of the questions and problems of which one must be aware and answer for one's self. Only then can one honestly confront them and be free of personal prejudices in moving toward solutions. A book such as Life or Death is useful and societally serviceable because it stirs up the dust under the rug. It may help to sweep the dust from under our own mental carpets. And this applies even if we disagree with much of what such discussions offer. It may also help us ask the right questions. The book, presenting 27 contributors including the editors, is a collection of articles...


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