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Albert Jonsen: Bioethics Pioneer

Albert “Al” Rupert Jonsen, PhD, an emeritus professor and a former chair of the Department of Medical History and Ethics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, died Oct. 21, 2020, at age 89.

Jonsen led the department, now Bioethics and Humanities, from 1987 to 1999.

Career highlights

A pioneer in the field of bioethics, Jonsen served from 1974 to 1978 as a member of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. He co-authored the Belmont Report, published in 1979, which identified ethical principles and guidelines for human-subjects research.

In 1980, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.

Jonsen also was an author of the classic teaching text, “Clinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine,” which included the “four-box method” to help clinicians make difficult ethical decisions.

Jonsen’s contributions are considered essential to human-subjects research and to physicians’ ethical decision-making.

Read more about Jonsen’s career and contributions

Share your remembrances or donate

  • The UW Department of Bioethics and Humanities has created a Google document for people who want to share remembrances of Albert Jonsen.
  • UW Advancement also created a page for those who want to fund bioethics programs in Jonsen’s honor.

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