Dr. Joseph J. Fins, Leading Medical Ethicist, Receives Wholeness of Life Award From Healthcare Chaplaincy

Nov 28, 2001


Joseph J. Fins, M.D., F.A.C.P., a nationally known medical ethicist, has received the Wholeness of Life Award from The Healthcare Chaplaincy, a 40-year-old organization that provides pastoral care, education, and research to 21 New York-area healthcare institutions, including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The award was presented at a gala dinner by Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian.

Dr. Fins, who is Chief of the new Division of Medical Ethics in the Departments of Public Health and Medicine at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was cited not only for his "numerous" academic and professional achievements but particularly for his work as Chairman of the Medical Center's Ethics Committee.

"You regularly go the extra mile to insure that patients and their loved ones are treated as whole persons deserving of honesty, patience, and respect," the citation said. "In these moments, your keen intellect, ironic wit, and lively human empathy become focused on medical ethics' enduring, perplexing, and very human problems."

The citation continued, "You encourage open dialogue over such questions as 'Why are we doing this?' 'Have we truly considered every alternative, every opinion?' and 'Has everyone—patient, family, and staff—been not only listened to, but heard?'

"It is this rare combination of intellect, imagination, and sensitivity that makes you a leader at the Hospital and in the ever-widening field of medical ethics as a whole. Your compassionate and thoughtful efforts and achievements thus far in your career set a standard of excellence for us all."

Dr. Fins is a graduate of Weill Cornell Medical College, and he completed a residency and fellowship in internal medicine at the Medical Center. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health as well as an Associate Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry at New York Weill Cornell, and has been an Associate for Medicine at the Hastings Center. He has received a Project on Death in America Faculty Scholars Award and a Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Visiting Fellowship, and has served on many medical advisory boards, including the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals. Besides his position at New York Weill Cornell, he has been Physician-Ethicist-in-Residence at The Healthcare Chaplaincy. He is perhaps best known for his searching mind and penetrating thoughts on ethical questions involved in end-of-life care.

The Healthcare Chaplaincy presented 18 Wholeness of Life Awards at its gala dinner on November 8. Each of the winners represented a different "partner" institution of the Chaplaincy, and was drawn from throughout the institution's structure.

New York Weill Cornell Medical Center has had an Ethics Committee since 1994. It established its formal Division of Medical Ethics in the spring of this year to be a resource throughout the institution on such questions as cloning, physician-assisted suicide, managed care, and the regulation of clinical research in genetic engineering and the neurosciences.