Albert R. Jonsen, 89, Dies; Introduced Medical Ethics to the Bedside

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Albert R. Jonsen, 89, Dies; Brought Medical Ethics to the Bedside

He and Dr. Andereck built a clinical ethics advisory service as part of Sutter Health, a large network of hospitals and clinics in Northern California. The service offers doctors, patients and their families more than 700 ethics consultations annually.

Dr. Jonsen's many passions went well beyond bioethics. As a philanthropist, he donated money to social causes, ecological foundations, academic institutions and the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order. He spoke seven languages, liked to sketch, immersed himself in opera and baroque music, and traveled widely.

As his nephew William Carrick said in an interview: "I often wanted to ask him if there is a list of countries he has not been to."

Albert Rupert Jonsen was born on April 4, 1931 in San Francisco. His father, also known as Albert, was an advertising man for the Hearst newspapers. His mother, Helen (Sweigert) Jonsen, was the daughter of the San Franciscans who had come to the city before the gold rush in the mid-19th century.

After high school, Dr. Jonsen for the Jesuit priesthood and was ordained a priest in 1962. He received his PhD in religious studies from Yale University in 1967 and taught philosophy and theology at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution, before becoming priestly president in 1969.

He left the priesthood in 1976 to marry Mary Elizabeth Carolan.

In 1974, President Gerald R. Ford appointed him to the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which was founded in response to information disclosed in 1972 that hundreds of poor black men with syphilis had lived in Alabama for over 40 years Purposely left untreated – and not informed of their condition – as part of government research known as the Tuskegee Study.

In a 1979 report, the commission recommended the broad adoption of principles of medical ethics in government research, including provisions for informed consent of research topics.

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