Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter

A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice

By Laurie Zoloth

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4828-9
    Published: October 1999
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7620-6
    Published: October 2005
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6968-5
    Published: October 2005

Studies in Social Medicine

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The last several years have seen a sharpening of debate in the United States regarding the problem of steadily increasing medical expenditures, as well as inflation in health care costs, a scarcity of health care resources, and a lack of access for a growing number of people in the national health care system. Some observers suggest that we in fact face two crises: the crisis of scarce resources and the crisis of inadequate language in the discourse of ethics for framing a response.

Laurie Zoloth offers a bold claim: to renew our chances of achieving social justice, she argues, we must turn to the Jewish tradition. That tradition envisions an ethics of conversational encounter that is deeply social and profoundly public, as well as offering resources for recovering a language of community that addresses the issues raised by the health care allocation debate.

Constructing her argument around a careful analysis of selected classic and postmodern Jewish texts and a thoughtful examination of the Oregon health care reform plan, Zoloth encourages a radical rethinking of what has become familiar ground in debates on social justice.

About the Author

Laurie Zoloth is associate professor of social ethics and Jewish philosophy and chair of the program in Jewish studies at San Francisco State University. She is also co-founder of The Ethics Practice, a firm devoted to providing bioethics education and clinical consultation.
For more information about Laurie Zoloth, visit the Author Page.


"These interactions are also the topic of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter, in which Zoloth, here as sole author, suggests a Jewish model for dealing with the increasingly urgent and tangled problem of distributing health care efficiently and justly."--Hastings Center Report

"[Zoloth offers] a strongly knitted framework, calling upon a rich Jewish tradition, from which prominent policy-makers can benefit."--Forward

"Laurie Zoloth is as talented as they come. . . . Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter [is] a beautifully poetic book . . . [and] a project with the ambitious aim of developing an alternative vocabulary with which to discuss justice in U.S. health care. It will surprise no one who is familiar with Zoloth's work to hear that she succeeds brilliantly. . . . Zoloth has written a book that is clinically astute, politically relevant, and abundant in wisdom and grace."--Carl Elliott, Journal of the American Medical Association

"The significance of Zoloth's book cannot be overestimated. At once theoretically important and practically wise, it gives us the Jewish intervention we have so desperately needed for the challenging questions presented by distribution of medical care. . . . More importantly, Zoloth helps us see why no philosopher or theologian should pretend to think about ethics without reflecting on the richness of Jewish thought. I can only hope this book will be widely read and used in any course that pretends to teach students about the ethics of medicine."--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University