Novak is a Jewish theologian who digs deep into Jewish scripture and tradition to find guidance for assessing three contemporary controversies in medicine and public policy: the use of embryos to derive stem cells for research; socialized medicine; and physician-assisted suicide. This is first and foremost a book of theology, and Novak weaves a rich and sophisticated tapestry of evidence to conclude that the Jewish understanding of the human being as sacred, as the image of God, is compatible with philosophical claims about the rights of the human person--especially the right to life--and can thus be made intelligible to secular culture. So what appears to be a specifically religious argument is, in Novak's view, generalizable. (This is why "A Jewish Perspective," is not the subtitle; in some ways that appeal to a religious identity would undercut the power of his argument.) What's the payoff? That the use of stem cells from embryos is morally unacceptable; that the sanctity of the human person, and not capitalist or socialist approaches, should drive our understanding of national health care; and that physician-assisted suicide violates a humankind's fundamental responsibility for caring for one another. Novak is a Georgetown Ph.D. (1971) and has a remarkable grasp of philosophical literature, from Plato to Aristotle to Kant to Nietsche. He uses those thinkers, then deftly draws on great Jewish figures from history--Maimonides, Rashi, and various commentators on the Torah (the written law, aka, the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Mishnah (the oral law). His interpretation of Jewish tradition is more conservative than, say, Brody or Mackler. But his method, his attempt to speak to modern moral dilemmas, is brilliant.