John C. Fletcher Jr

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The Reverend John Caldwell Fletcher Jr (born 1932 in Bryan, Texas; died May 27, 2004 in Keswick, Virginia) was a former Episcopal priest and a noted biomedical ethicist at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center and at the University of Virginia medical school.

Fletcher was the oldest of four children born to John C. Fletcher and Estelle Caldwell. Born while his mother visited family in Texas, he was raised in Birmingham, where his father was pastor of St John's Episcopal Church for the Deaf. He graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee with a degree in English literature and then earned his master's in divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. He married the former Adele Woodall of Keswick, Virginia in 1954. He then studied in Heidelberg, Germany from 1956 to 1957 as a Fulbright Scholar and went on to earn his doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Fletcher was chaplain of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and at Midtown Medical Center in New York before returning to the D.C. area in 1966 with a teaching post at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Unhappy with the dissociation of seminary studies and ministerial practice, Fletcher founded an alternative educational center called Inter/met in 1971. The course of studies was centered on practical experience and students worked at full-time apprenticeships and met to discuss what they had learned on the job. The program was financially unsuccessful and closed in 1977.

He published his first book on medical ethics in 1982 and was named as the first head of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. He joined the University of Virginia faculty in 1987 and rose to the position of Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Ethics in Internal Medicine. He was given the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities' lifetime achievement award in 2001.

Citing "intellectual dishonesty", Fletcher renounced his Episcopal ordination in the mid-1990s, but remained a member of the church. Suffering from clinical depression, Fletcher drowned himself at his home in Keswick in 2004. He was survived by his wife and three grown children, six grandchildren, and his siblings.

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