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Bioethical Challenges at the End of Life

Bioethical Challenges at the End of Life

An Ethical Guide in Catholic Perspective

By Ralph Weimann

276 pp

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About the Book

Death, and with it the end of human life, has been brought back into focus by the pandemic. But — how to deal with death, given medical-technical progress? What is morally justifiable and acceptable? The end of life presents many challenges. In this timely text, the most important bioethical challenges at the end of life are described, followed in each case by an ethical-moral orientation based on the Gospel and the tradition of the Church. Principles are presented pointing beyond death to eternal life, principles without which end-of-life issues cannot be faced responsibly.

      Taken up with a refreshing lack of evasion are such pressing issues as various forms of euthanasia, suicide and assisted suicide, ordinary and extraordinary measures at the end of life, life-sustaining measures to consider, and organ transplants. And, hovering all the while in the background: the question of determining the moment of death. The search is on for spiritual insight into how faith and reason may guide us serenely even in the midst of personal grief to mediate bioethical challenges at the end of life in the spirit of Christ—that is, by never overstepping the inviolable dignity of the human being.


"The culture of death has tightened its grip during the COVID-19 pandemic. Combining a comprehensive overview of the personalist foundations of end-of-life ethics with magisterial references, Fr. Weimann equips readers to advance the culture of life, guiding them through assessments about ordinary and extraordinary treatments as well as the pitfalls of euthanasia and assisted suicide. He also offers insightful contributions to more recent controversies surrounding brain death, organ donation, and alkaline hydrolysis."


The National Catholic Bioethics Center


“Christianity is a message of hope. It shows the path that does not end with death, but leads to eternal life. Therefore, the right way of dealing with dying and death is crucial. In view of the challenges involved, Prof. Ralph Weimann’s book offers a fundamental ethical and moral orientation of the greatest importance for Catholics, but also with an ecumenical dimension. This scientifically thorough but accessible book deserves wide distribution.”


President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity


“Today, death and dying are increasingly seen as technological problems concerning utility, rather than moral issues regarding meaning. As with our attitude toward living, so our attitude toward dying will largely depend on whether we understand ourselves as transient products of blind evolution or as creatures of a wise and loving Creator having an eternal destiny. In his highly recommendable volume, Weimann advocates the latter, providing a panoramic vision of current end-of-life issues in the broader context of what it means to be a human person from a Catholic perspective.”


Pontifical Theological John Paul II Institute, Rome


“In the context of a culture under the lash of economic, media, and post-modern pressures, this timely, well-researched, and lucidly argued book poses questions about end-of-life care sure to benefit Christians, bioethics experts, and people generally. Fr. Weimann focuses on modern presuppositions about the human person which have led us astray from authentic Christian ethics. Forms of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and therapeutic obstinacy are distinguished from authentic principles of Catholic teaching. A stimulating critique of brain death criteria, organ transplants, and burial and alternatives to it, further enhances this major work.”


Emeritus Lecturer in Moral Theology, Regina Apostolorum, Rome


“Father Weimann offers Catholics a substantial and mostly non-technical study of the issues surrounding euthanasia (‘making a good end’) and suicide—whether self-inflicted or assisted—and usually enacted as a means of securing the ‘dignity’ of the human person and respecting his ‘quality of life.’ Largely adapted from the teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, it provides a challenging introduction to an important part of the culture-war between the partisans of the ‘Culture of Life’ preached normally (but not always) by the Catholic Church and the ‘Culture of Death’ preferred by abortion-mongers and those eager to save money and trouble by eliminating the elderly who, as they see it, are now ‘past their shelf-life.’”


Emeritus Professor of Classics and Philosophy, University of Toronto

About the Author

RALPH WEIMANN was born in 1976. After studying in the USA, Italy, and Germany, he obtained a diploma in humanities and a bachelor in philosophy, followed by a licentiate in theology. After his ordination to the priesthood, he earned a doctorate in theology in 2010 on the thesis “Dogma and Progress in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger.” He earned a second doctorate in 2013 on the thesis “Bioethics in a Secularized Society.” He has worked as a military chaplain since 2015. Rev. Weimann lectures at various colleges and universities in Rome, in particular the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the International Online University Domuni.

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