SCIENCES

Thieves of Virtue: When Bioethics Stole Medicine

. 2012. 328p. 978-0-26201-798-5. 29.95.
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This insightful but at times overly polemical book is a scathing critique of contemporary bioethics since the 1960s. Koch (Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground) claims that, prior to the rise of bioethics as a discipline, doctor-patient relationships were governed only by a concern for the patient’s well-being. Now economic and social factors are brought into play, such as “the myth of scarcity,” which, he claims, creates situations in which social concerns trump the needs of the individual. He argues, perhaps with some merit, that anxieties about the scarcity of medical care exist only because the United States has created a system that does not allocate the necessary funds for adequate health care. While Koch sometimes reads his opponents uncharitably and seems to simplify their positions to fit his critique of them, he makes valid, thoughtful points. ­
VERDICT Despite his controversial tone and arguably unfair readings of those he considers his opponents, Koch raises important questions that bioethics and health policy scholars (his intended audience) would do well to attend to.
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