Mary J. MC DONOUGH, Can a Health Care Market be Moral? A Catholic Vision. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007, pp. 256. $29.95 pb. ISBN 1-58901-157-0.
Reviewed by Marie CONN, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA 19118

By presenting the health care question through the lenses of both Catholic social teaching and models of marketing, McDonough makes a worthwhile contribution to the health care debate. Her reach is broad, but she presents her findings in language that is clear and accessible.

Chapter One traces “Justice in Catholic Social Thought” from Augustine through John Paul II, thus laying the foundation for claims about the insights that Catholic social teaching can offer to the economics of health care. The remaining chapters review the Catholic approach to capitalism, the history and various theories of the market and medicine, and a value-centered approach to health care.

Missing from most books on health care reform written from a church-based perspective has been an appreciation of the market side of the issue. McDonough’s background in legal services and state government, and her experiences teaching college-level ethics courses make her uniquely qualified to fill this gap. She is able to make complex economic theories understandable to the lay reader and also to appreciate the very real importance of injecting the Catholic moral tradition into this understanding.

In any discussion of health care reform, the issues of funding and distribution quickly arise. McDonough offers helpful insights into finding ways of combining the realities of the market with the demands of justice and basic human needs and rights.

McDonough’s book draws on global models of health care, and various market approaches to health care, focusing especially on the approaches of leading economists Milton Friedman, Regina Herzlinger, Mark Pauly, and Alain Enthoven, testing each in light of the demands of Catholic social teaching.

I agree with the judgment of Richard M. Gula, S.S., Professor of Moral Theology, Franciscan School of Theology/Graduate Theological Union, who finds McDonough’s book “…a welcomed book for anyone who believes that the Catholic theological tradition can make a significant contribution to this major issue at the intersection of social ethics, economics, and health care."

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