Volume 38, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2018
Medicine as Just War?
The Legacy of James Childress in Christian Ethics
What do medicine and war have to do with each other? This question is explored through the writings of James Childress, whose early contributions to just war theory illuminate his work in bioethics. By considering the conceptual influences of just war theory on Childress’s bioethics, the contributions and limits of his approach can be set in relief through normative engagement with certain areas of medicine. In particular, Childress’s just-war-inspired bioethics befits the practice of surgery; but oncology, as a medical analogue to total warfare, requires significant transformation in order to be disciplined by Childress’s approach. Childress offers a coherent schema for navigating moral conflict in a fallen world, but he does not provide a substantive account of the peaceable end toward which medicine as just war aims.