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Handbook on Critical Life Issues is a comprehensive textbook evaluating major life issues and health care ethics from the standpoint of the teaching of the Catholic Church. It is meant in a special way for use in university courses and adult religious education. This classic work on Catholic bioethics began with texts compiled by Rev. Donald McCarthy and Rev. Edward Bayer in 1982 and was revised twice by the Marianist Rev. John Leies, most recently in 2010. This fourth edition, by Arland Nichols, substantially reorganizes and greatly expands upon the previous editions.
The Handbook is divided into three parts. The first part discusses fundamental principles and foundations, including reliance upon faith, reason, and Scripture; freedom, conscience, and the human act; and the human person, suffering, and compassion. The second part looks at issues around the beginning of human life, including contraception, artificial reproductive practices and natural fertility treatments, the moment when human life begins, abortion, and experimentation on human embryos. The third part completes the presentation by looking at moral issues in the midst of life and at its end, such as preventative and risk-reducing medicine, organ donation, advanced directives, decisions about preserving life, and the determination of death. Two appendices cover a legal history of the withdrawal of treatment and capital punishment.
John A. Leies (1926–2021) was a Marianist priest, high school teacher and chaplain, and long-time professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, where he became university president. Arland K. Nichols is a former student of Fr. Leies and is the founder and president of the St. John Paul II Foundation.