One need not be a believer to note the power of religion in shaping the illness experience of patients across cultures and in inclining many health care professionals to altruism over the centuries. In Western medical ethics, the dominant shaping tradition since the fourth century CE happens to be Christianity. Some Western nations are still entirely dominated by it, while in others it has diminished considerably. Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD, and David C. Thomasma, PhD, intellectual collaborators for two decades, have written an apologetic for a Christian medical ethics that invites readers of any persuasion to appreciate the continuing power of faith commitments in shaping professional consciousness.
In a successful chapter entitled "Medical Practice and Charity," these authors remind us that the Christian virtue of charity or love quickened the spirit of beneficence in medical practice to a degree that Greco-Roman antiquity did not approach. The factors that now seem