12 Oct

Taking Care

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/12/05

"Taking Care is an important, and provocative, ethical document that belongs in every university and medical school bioethics curriculum. More important, it offers a starting point for a badly needed national conversation about a difficult topic that is too often avoided. Leon Kass and the President's Council on Bioethics deserve high praise for another job well done." Wesley J. Smith, "A Kass Act," The Weekly Standard (September 10, 2005)

Under the chairmanship of Leon Kass, a guest on multiple volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, the President's Council on Bioethics produced in-depth studies of human cloning, biotechnology as therapy, human nature, stem cell research, reproductive biotechnologies, and alternative sources to human pluripotent stem cells. Its latest release, and the last report during Kass's tenure as chairman, is Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society. The document acknowledges that America is an aging society and explores the concerns it will face as it ages. In the book's preface Kass writes: "Taken as a whole, our report aims to enrich public discussion about aging, dementia, and caregiving, to encourage policymakers to take up these complicated yet urgent issues, and to offer ethical guidance for caregivers—professional and familial—who struggle to provide for those entrusted to their care. We also hope to encourage policymakers in this area to take into account the humanistic and ethical aspects of aging and caregiving, not only the economic and institutional ones. Staying human in our aging society depends on it."

The five chapters in Taking Care are titled: "Dilemmas of an Aging Society," "The Limited Wisdom of Advance Directives," "The Ethics of Caregiving: General Principles," "Ethical Caregiving: Principle and Prudence in Hard Cases," and "Conclusions and Recommendations." They deal, respectively, with aging well in modern times and in America; practical and ethical critiques of living wills; constructive inquiry into ethical caregiving—both its ethical principles and moral boundaries and how prudence and principle collaborate in determining ethical caregiving; and with the conclusions and recommendations of the Council. The full text of Taking Care is available on-line. [Posted October 2005, ALG]