Cover image for The body of compassion : ethics, medicine, and the church
The body of compassion : ethics, medicine, and the church
Shuman, Joel James.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 216 pages ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1680 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R725.56 .S54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In The Body of Compassion, Joel Shuman presents an important, new theological treatment of contemporary bioethics, weaving together personal experience, a critical treatise on contemporary bioethics, and an exploration of a Christian theological alternative.The author first draws the reader into a consideration of the current state of bioethics by relating the story of his grandfather, a hard-working family man who died a solitary death, unaccompanied by loved ones, in the unfamiliar and sterile world of a hospital. Troubled by the way his grandfather died, Shuman takes the reader along as he explores how modern medicine has distanced itself from dealing with people as living beings beyond their immediate physicality. He examines how various approaches to bioethics over the past twenty years have tried to remedy this problem by prescribing certain standards for treatment and how each of these ultimately has fallen short due to the lack of "a teleological concern for the body"--i.e., to trying to understand what the body is actually for in a larger context. From this point, Shuman deftly moves to a discussion of the centrality of the body to Christianity, focusing on how baptism, participation in the liturgy, and the partaking of the Eucharist all serve to unite Christians as one in the body of Christ. For Christians, the author argues, the body does not just belong to the individual but rather is one with the community of the Church. With this in mind, Shuman proposes a new kind of bioethics for Christians, where care for the body of Christ becomes the model of how we should care for and receive care from each other.This fresh and thought-provoking book is sure to be of interest to ethicists, medical professionals, and everyone who is troubled by places where science and religion intersect and seem to conflict.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Shuman's compelling book is permeated by Methodist pacifist theologian Stanley Hauerwas' influence, so readers of contemporary theology will be familiar with its philosophical and theological roots and conversant with its language. Its success, though, depends on connecting with a larger audience. Like Hauerwas, Shuman is in a running skirmish with modernity, exemplified by a polemic against modern medicine early in the book. That polemic is folded into a well-crafted personal narrative, accessible to anyone open to a good story. Those who stay with the story receive a thorough introduction to medical ethics and to a communitarian approach to virtue that draws from Hauerwas' and agrarian author Wendell Berry's thinking. Some may find the further influence of Flannery O'Connor surprising, but Shuman takes her embrace of the grotesque as the starting point for a constructive ethic "beyond bioethics." O'Connor wrote that she had "never been anywhere except sick." Being there with such presence enabled her to care in a way that, Shuman recognizes, is rare and worthy of careful cultivation. --Steven Schroeder

Library Journal Review

Religion and ethics instructor Shuman's first book is the latest entry in Westview's ever-intriguing "Radical Traditions" series. Using examples from literature and personal experience, Shuman constructs an interesting case for the primacy of compassionÄChristian compassionÄin the delivery of healthcare. The standard of moral rectitude he sets for caregivers may seem impossibly high, but his work will be instructive and provocative for many readers. For most collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Creditsp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
1 Before Bioethicsp. 1
2 The """"Birth"""" of Bioethicsp. 47
3 After Bioethicsp. 79
4 Beyond Bioethicsp. 113
Afterword: Awaiting the Redemption of Our Body -- Life and Death in the Meantimep. 157
Notesp. 161
Bibliographyp. 201
Indexp. 209