Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991) was an American professor who founded the theory of situational ethics in the 1960s, and was a pioneer in the field of bioethics. Fletcher was a leading academic involved in the topics of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, eugenics, and cloning. Ordained as an Episcopal priest, he later identified himself as an atheist.
Fletcher was a prolific professor, teaching, participating in symposia, and completing ten books, and hundreds of articles, book reviews, and translations.
He taught Christian Ethics at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at Harvard Divinity School from 1944 to 1970. He was the first professor of medical ethics at the University of Virginia and co-founded the Program in Biology and Society there. He retired from teaching in 1977.
In 1974, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.
He served as president of the Euthanasia Society of America (later renamed the Society for the Right to Die) from 1974 to 1976. He was also a member of the American Eugenics Society and the Association for Voluntary Sterilization.
- "We need to educate people to the idea that the quality of life is more important than mere length of life. Our cultural tradition holds that life has absolute value, but that is really not good enough anymore. Sometimes, no life is better."
- "Memoir of an Ex-Radical," Joseph Francis Fletcher Papers (20: 29).
- "Recollections," Joseph Francis Fletcher Papers (20: 31).
- Joseph Francis Fletcher Papers, The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, Department of Historical Collections and Services, University of Virginia.
- 1954 Morals and Medicine N.J.: Princeton University Press (Discusses euthanasia.)
- 1966 Situation Ethics: The New Morality, Philadelphia: Westminster Press (Translated into 5 languages.)
- 1974 The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette. New York: Doubleday and Company (Discusses eugenic cloning.)