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Joseph Fletcher

AKA Joseph Francis Fletcher

Born: 10-Apr-1905
Birthplace: East Orange, NJ
Died: 28-Oct-1991
Location of death: Charlottesville, VA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Sociologist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Situation ethics

Joseph Fletcher was an Episcopal theologian who first articulated "situation ethics", the theory that codified and even scriptural law can be too regimented, and that technicalities should be ignored when at odds with Christian love or, for non-Christians, the greatest good. Still considered controversial, an oft-cited example of situation ethics is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran minister who, as Nazis came to power in Germany, concluded that the need to assassinate Adolf Hitler took precedence over "Thou shalt not kill". Fletcher later renounced Christianity and became an atheist, and a founder of the field of modern biomedical ethics, writing extensively on the moral questions behind such controversial practices as abortion, cloning, eugenics, and voluntary euthanasia.

He grew up in West Virginia's coal territory, where as a young man he was briefly jailed for defying a court injunction by working as a union organizer. He was twice beaten unconscious for speaking at union rallies, and he was criticized as a communist by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He married poet Forrest Hatfield, a member of the famous feuding Hatfield clan, and she worked for many years alongside Margaret Sanger on birth control issues.

Wife: Forrest Hatfield Fletcher (poet-activist, b. 1905, d. 1988)
Daughter: Jane Fletcher Geniesse
Wife: Elizabeth Hobbs Fletcher

    University: West Virginia University
    Theological: Harvard Divinity School
    Teacher: Christian Ethics, Episcopal Divinity School
    Professor: Christian Ethics, Harvard Divinity School (1944-70)
    Professor: Medical Ethics, University of Virginia

    Humanist of the Year 1974
    American Eugenics Society
    Planned Parenthood
    Society for the Right to Die President (1974-76)
    Ordained

Author of books:
The Church and Industry (1930, with Spencer Miller)
Christianity and Property (1947)
Morals and Medicine (1954)
William Temple: Twentieth Century Christian (1963)
Situation Ethics: The New Morality (1966)
Moral Responsibility: Situation Ethics at Work (1967)
The Situation Ethics Debate (1968, with Harvey Cox)
Hello Lovers: An Introduction to Situation Ethics (1970, with Thomas A. Wassmer)
The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette (1974)
Humanhood: Essays in Biomedical Ethics (1979)
Joseph Fletcher: Memoir of An Ex-Radical (1993, memoir, posthumous)


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