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‘Bioethical Issues’ – A Review by Geoff Thomas

Category Book Reviews
Date February 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Bioethical Issues: Understanding and Responding to the Culture of Death by John Ling [Leominster: Day One, 2014], 312pp, $20.00/£10.00, ISBN 978 1 84625 427 7.

Dr. John Ling, the author of Bioethical Issues: Understanding and Responding to the Culture of Death, has sat at my feet on Sundays for over 38 years. A member and former deacon in our congregation he was, until his retirement, a lecturer in biochemistry and bioethics at Aberystwyth University. His course on medical ethics was one of the most popular at the university, always crowded with students. He is a trustee of LIFE, the leading pro-life charity in the UK. He has three children and eight grandchildren. His personal website is

Dr. Ling begins by considering human life – that it is unique and special, begins at conception, requires stewardship, ends in natural death; life is not to be taken and needs special care. Then abortion is considered – what it is in practice, its scale and reality, abortion and the morning-after pill, abortion unregulated, unlawful and undercover, abortion and mental health. Then in vitro fertilization is examined, the question of infertility, abortion in practice, with its bioethical dilemmas, health risks, its alternatives and if IVF is to be rejected what is left. Then surrogacy is questioned and assessed, and human embryo experimentation, human cloning, stem-cell technologies, human genetic engineering, genetic disabilities and screening, gene therapy, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide. Then Dr. Ling asks what are some of the secondary issues, and when does human life begin, and how did we get the abortion act of 1967, and then what of the future?

So what are his conclusions? What must we do? Responding is a head, heart, and hand affair. We must pray, we must engage, we must care, we must support. Finally the Christian’s resources are outlined in books, journals, magazines, worldwide websites, and a film library.

This is the most comprehensive and accessible book on medical ethics that is available anywhere today. Dr. Ling puts into practice what he preaches. He travels far and wide giving lectures on this subject. He recently gave a series of lectures in Poland, not for the first time. He has built up a relationship with our Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament putting the Christian ethical position to him on issues of abortion, euthanasia, and marriage. They are friends, if not in agreement on many issues. Dr. Ling encourages the members of our congregation to contact both the Members of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff and Members of Parliament in London to express their concerns.

John begins the book with his own pilgrimage and ends with this exhortation:

May God grant us the wisdom and energy to accomplish all this. In our striving to be head-heart-hand, bioethically principled, compassionately responding Christians, may we be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ (Matt. 10:16). ‘This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him’ (Deut. 30:19-20).

This book should be on the shelf of every church officer and the issues understood and implemented.

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