BOOK REVIEWS Fertility and Faith: The Ethics of Human Fertilization

Brendan Mccarthy
Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1997 As McCarthy states in his first chapter, 'The whole area of human fertilization and embryology has become a moral and legal minefield'. 'Fertility and Faith' is an attempt to grapple with the complex moral context of recent British legislation and debate on the subject. This does make the book of greater interest to a British readership, but the issues discussed have a general and increasing relevance, and the structure of the book makes it possible
more » ... to avoid the sometimes lengthy discussions of the British debate while still profiting from the overall argument being put forward by the author. McCarthy himself is a pastor, who has had personally to face the question of the compatibility of modern infertility treatments with the Christian faith. He begins with a discussion of the purpose and findings of the Warnock Committee, which was set up in 1982 by the British government under the chairmanship of the philosopher, Mary Warnock. Its rem1t was 'to consider recent and potential developments in medicine and science related to embryology', and to make appropriate policy recommendations on the subject to the British parliament. A strength of the book is its concern to lay a sound ethical foundation before addressing the specific issues, which include artificial insemination, egg and embryo donation, in vitro fertilization , surrogate motherhood, embryo research and storage, and abortion. McCarthy notes that a weakness of many Christian contributions to the debate surrounding the Warnock Committee, was the tendency to express an opinion on such questions without dealing with the fundamental moral issues involved. Indeed a major criticism of the Warnock Committee itself was that it did not adequately explain the moral reasoning which lay behind its recommendations. McCarthy's own discussion begins therefore with a brief consideration of Christian ethics, and of the relationship between morality and legislation. In the course of his discussion he rejects the idea that every moral issue should be the object of legislation, arguing rather that this should be the case 'only if it can be shown that individuals are at risk, that the fundamental order of society is threatened, or that the rest of the natural order is seriously endangered' (p.58) .