Thomas Murray's graceful and humane book illuminates one of the most morally complex areas of everyday life: the relationship between parents and children. What do children mean to their parents, and how far do parental obligations go? What, from the beginning of life to its end, is the worth of a child?
Ethicist Murray leaves the rarefied air of abstract moral philosophy in order to reflect on the moral perplexities of ordinary life and ordinary people. Observing that abstract moral terms such as altruism and selfishness can be buried in the everyday doings of families, he maintains that ethical theory needs a richer description than it now has of the moral life of parents and children. How far should adults go in their quest for children? What options are available to women who do not want to bear a child now? Should couples be allowed to reject a child because of genetic disability or "wrong" gender? How can we weigh the competing claims of the genetic and the rearing parents to a particular child?
The Worth of a Child couples impressive learning with a conversational style. Only by getting down to cases, Murray insists, can we reach moral conclusions that are unsentimental, farsighted, and just. In an era of intense public and private acrimony about the place and meaning of "family values," his practical wisdom about extraordinary difficult moral issues offers compelling reading for both experienced and prospective parents, as well as for ethicists, social and behavioral scientists, and legal theorists.
Thomas H. Murray is Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medicine, Case Western University. He is the editor of Feeling Good and Doing Better (1984), and Which Babies Shall Live? (1985).
"The Worth of a Child is beautifully written . . . pulling together sophisticated reasoning with a style that is not only accessible but positively inviting."—James L. Nelson, co-author of The Patient in the Family
"An engrossing ethical analysis that illuminates the many ways in which children both enrich and add responsibilities to parents' lives. The Worth of a Child provides new insights into the values that underlie the concept of 'family' and the complexities created by modern reproductive and genetic technologies."—Carol Levine, Executive Director, The Orphan Project
"With sensitivity and compassion as well as profound insight, Murray weaves a tapestry, examining the ethical relationship between children and adults. He artfully reveals the critical importance of children in our lives and their value and significance to the society."—Alan R. Fleischman, M.D., Senior Vice President, New York Academy of Medicine; Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine