Moral Problems in Medicine: A Practical Coursebook

By Michael Palmer

A concise and stimulating introduction to medical ethics. An essential reader for medical students, nurses and other health professionals.

ISBN: 9780718891787


A selection of philosophical writings can be daunting to the uninitiated in the field of philosophy. Michael Palmer makes the process of becoming acquainted with philosophical texts smoother in this practical coursebook.

Designed to equip students of clinical school and nursing with essential ethical awareness for medical dilemmas, this guide to reflecting upon moral medical problems covers an impressive scope.

Controversial issues, including: euthanasia, abortion, vivisection, human-testing and behaviour control, are examined in considerable detail, as well as issues such as the right to self-determination and the limits of confidentiality. Students are invited to explore each issue with the use of philosophical questions. The very concept of ethics is investigated and chapters on egoism, utilitarianism, Kant’s theories, determinism and meta-ethics are included. The discussion extends into the relatively unexplored area of cutting-edge genetic research and gives readers a sense of how existing thinking can be applied when new developments arise.

Each topic is lucidly introduced and then examined in more depth through extracts taken from such major ethical thinkers as James Rachels, Sissela Bok and Peter Singer. Case-studies are provided so that the student can place often overwhelming philosophical theories in context. This demonstrates how philosophy is still very much applicable to the present-day. Hypothetical questions test the student’s understanding and comprehension questions demand evaluation of the text. In addition, a detailed bibliography at the end of each chapter provides opportunities for further research and reading.

This informative introduction to ethical awareness provides the reader with vital theoretical tools for the management of real medical concerns. Although aimed primarily at students, it will also prove a valuable, thought-provoking resource for doctors, nurses, paramedics, those employed in healthcare management, and members of the public concerned with the ethics of medical practice.

Additional information

Dimensions234 × 156 mm


Trade InformationEDPOD

About the Author

Dr Michael Palmer was educated at Lancing College and St John’s College, Durham. A former Teaching Fellow at McMaster University and Humboldt Fellow at Marburg University, Dr Palmer has taught at Marlborough College and Bristol University, and was for many years founding Head of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at The Manchester Grammar School. His Moral Problems (Lutterworth, 1991; 2nd ed, 2005), remains the most influential school coursebook in philosophy of its generation.

His other works include Freud and Jung on Religion (1997), The Question of God (2001), the two-volumed The Philosophy of Religion (2008), The Atheist’s Creed (2010), The Atheist’s Primer (2012) and Atheism for Beginners (2013). One of the most widely-read of contemporary philosophers, his work has been translated into many languages.

Endorsements and Reviews

I was very impressed with both the content and layout of, particularly with the use of extracts and critical commentary. The exercises and questions posed in the text are very useful to help the reader understand and relate the concepts and theories to practice. The extensive reading lists are a very useful source of further reading.
Ian Donaldson, Institute of Health & Community Studies, Bournemouth University

This book was a joy to read. It is easy to read, yet has greater depth than most books of applied ethics. It is wonderful resource with many pertinent articles not only included, but critiqued. The extracts offer the reader a balanced, critical view from which to analyse and reflect. This book should be useful for academics and clinicians, as well as saving hours for students searching for primary sources.
Isabel Smith, School of Health Studies, University of Bradford

The book highlights the relevant ethical theory. Overall, this is an excellent text for level three undergraduate study.
Maureen A. Eby, School of Health and Social Welfare, The Open University

An excellent resource.
Jon Whelan, Senior Lecturer, University of Hertfordshire

I am sure that it will be very useful to students and staff in teaching a number of modules concerned with ethics in health care in the future.
Dr. Marylin Hammick, Head of Professional Studies Department, Oxford Brookes University

Accessible to those with a little knowledge of philosophical or moral theory. It packs a great deal into fewer than 200 pages. A rich mix and a layout that lends itself to structured study. The book presents basic philosophical principles well, includes challenging texts and poses good questions based on realistic practical dilemmas. As a text for the student it is of value. For the practising health professional it provides useful background and theory.
Michael Wilks, in Health Service Journal

Warmly recommended as an introduction to philosophical medical ethics which needs no prior knowledge of philosophy nor even any deep understanding of the medical problems it discusses. It would provide an excellent basic text for any course on medical ethics for health care professionals and interested non-professional alike.
John Wilkinson, in The Expository Times

Those seeking a crash course in bioethics would be advised to turn first to excellent collection of readings, summaries, and exercises. It will be an appropriate starting point for many students of disability studies. … It is clear, concise and provides suggestions for further readings. … An excellent and well prepared introduction to an important and complex subject of use in university teaching and for those campaigning around genetics, euthanasia and other dimensions of contemporary healthcare. An understanding of the philosophical arguments it contains would add immeasurably to the quality of political debate in this area.
Disability and Society

The structure of the books is likely to appeal to health care professionals, with extensive case studies and an extremely generous supply of possible essay questions.
Prof J. Stuart Horner, in Public Health, Vol 113

We should be grateful that Mr Palmer has now extended his excellent general work earlier in the decade on moral problems to the morality which lies beneath the practise of some branches of medicine. … this is a first-class text which will prove to be eminently useful for those both teaching and studying morality in the sixth form.
P.A.S. Harrington, School Librarian Journal

A great introduction to ethics for clinicians. … The fusion of ethical principle and medical dilemma is well managed throughout the book, and provides a rhythm and focus that prevents it from becoming overly academic. The book is liberally sprinkled with extracts from works of major ethical thinkers, giving the reader a balanced and thought-provoking view of the pros and cons of the various ethical paths described. … The language is on the whole easy to read and the chapters short enough to enable even the most fatigued pre-bedtime reader to extract a few gems without having to try too hard.
Steven Luttrell, in Age and Ageing