A Tribute to John Arras

by Steven Miles, MD

It is hard to believe that John Arras has died. John was one of the younger creators of modern bioethics. He died at age 69. He was my teacher although I am less than five years his junior.

John was the rare spirit of teaching. Although broadly read, he used his erudition to counsel and inspire rather than to boast or intimidate. He avoided the spartan liturgy of four principles in his elegantly constructed and simply stated arguments that spoke to heart and mind. He insisted on taking on the hard stuff like access to health care and rationing and justice and the neglected corners of medicine rather than confining himself to the well trodden dilemmas of end of life intensive care.

John was a teacher first. He loved his students. He took pride in their growth and saw them (rather than his papers) as his true legacy. He was kind to all of them. He praised their strengths and pointed to their higher potential. He used a gentle wit rather than a scalpel to shape them. I benefited immeasurably from him as a scholar, as a teacher, as a person.

It was my profound good fortune to meet John as a young person and to have benefited from his contributions throughout my career.

John Arras portrait from Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (bioethics.gov)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.