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Health & Medicine
The Challenge of Reproductive Medicine at Catholic Universities:   Time to Leave the Catacombs
Edited by Ivo Brosens
Illustrated. 236 pp.
Peeters Publishers. US$57.00
ISBN: 9789042917620

Although the editor and publisher of The Challenge of Reproductive Medicine at Catholic Universities: Time to Leave the Catacombs undoubtedly intended the work for a Catholic audience, this book is also valuable for non-Catholics who recognize the impact of Catholicism on issues in reproductive medicine. This book will be of interest to readers interested in questions of medical ethics.

The word "catholicism" means universal. Even though the Church has never become as universal as it desires, it nonetheless has affected and intertwined itself deeply enough into cultures and nations of the world that in some ways, its effect has been so widespread as to call it, loosely, universal.

The Challenge of Reproductive Medicine at Catholic Universities focuses on the Catholic universities in the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). Areas of reproductive medicine, such as fertility control and enhancement, prenatal diagnosis, and fetal surgery are all pursued at Catholic universities in these countries. At the same time, however, Catholic universities around the world struggle with—and are divided by—questions related to reproductive medicine, such as contraception, embryonic stem cell research, and genetic-level treatments. How can Catholic universities span the ever widening divide between traditional Church dogma and modern reproductive treatments and technology? Even if they can, should they? These are questions that can divide the Church.

In this controversial field, The Challenge of Reproductive Medicine at Catholic Universities gives a welcome look at these issues. It is divided into three parts and is the work of numerous contributors. Part One presents a historical view of the biomedical issues that surround the controversy. The modern age of reproductive medicine began in the 1950s with the discovery that menstruation and ovulation are controlled by sex steroid hormones. Part Two focuses on the history of reproductive medicine at one Catholic university, the K.U. Leuven in Belgium. This history is representative of reproductive medicine at other Catholic universities. It is especially valuable in that it does not attempt to hide or whitewash mistakes and disagreements. Part Three reveals the current practices of reproductive medicine at Catholic Universities. This section is notable for the discussions of the wide variety of ways reproductive medicine is practiced at different institutions. Particularly interesting are the chapters that discuss the polarization that is already occurring between more and less traditional institutions.

The three sections of the book are cohesively centered around their theme, which is the question whether reproductive medicine is at odds with Catholicism. If it is, then what should be the path of Catholic universities with reproductive medicine departments? This book is important reading for those concerned with these issues.

Editor Ivo Brosens is the founder and director of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery and cofounder of the Centre for Surgical Technologies at the University of Leuven, Belgium. His main research interests include the placental bed, tubal infertility and endometriosis.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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