He and Dr. Andereck went on to establish a clinical ethics consultation service as part of Sutter Health, a large Northern California network of hospitals and clinics. The service provides more than 700 ethics consultations a year to doctors, patients and their families.
Dr. Jonsen’s many passions extended far 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 was a list of countries he hadn’t been to.”
Albert Rupert Jonsen was born in San Francisco on April 4, 1931. His father, also named Albert, was an advertising executive with the Hearst newspapers. His mother, Helen (Sweigert) Jonsen, was the daughter of San Franciscans who had arrived in the city before the Gold Rush of the mid-19th-century.
After high school, Dr. Jonsen studied for the Jesuit priesthood and was ordained in 1962. He received a doctorate in religious studies from Yale University in 1967 and taught philosophy and theology at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution, before being named its 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 of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which was formed in response to disclosures in 1972 that for more than 40 years hundreds of poor Black men with syphilis in Alabama had deliberately been left untreated — and not informed of their condition — as part of government research known as the Tuskegee Study.
As part of a 1979 report, the commission recommended the broad adoption of principles of medical ethics in government research, including stipulations for informed consent by research subjects.