Anne Donchin, 1930-2014

We note with regret the death of Anne Donchin, Professor Emerita of Philosophy (Indiana University) and co-editor, with Laura Purdy, of Embodying Bioethics: Recent Feminist Advances (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).  Diana Tietjens Meyers writes, “She was a co-founder, co-coordinator and newsletter contributor of the International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB), and she was a regular participant in FEAST conferences. Prior to her death she was working on a book entitled Procreation, Power and Personal Autonomy: Feminist Reflections. A memorial service is scheduled for September 2 at Grace Episcopal Church in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.” 

Anne Donchin earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1970 and her M.A. from Rice University in 1965. Her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1954 is preceded by her Ph.B from the University of Chicago in 1953. Her entry on Indiana University’s “Women Creating Excellence” webpage states that she “shaped the early development of the Women’s Studies program at IUPUI.  Within a year of her arrival to campus in 1982, Donchin became active in Women’s Studies and took on the role of program coordinator.  The position title was later renamed director.  Donchin helped guide the program through its early years of development and later served two additional years as director in the early 1990s.”  

It is customary to acknowledge one’s connection with a philosopher’s work when memorializing them here at FP.  I smile at the memory that I gave up trying to write about relational autonomy in health care when I read Anne Donchin’s article, “Understanding Autonomy Relationally: Toward a Reconfiguration of Bioethical Principles” (Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 26:4), because she articulated better than I could the “need to preserve both a generalized and a concrete standpoint.”  I leave you with her conclusion, one following her rejection of the ethics of caring as appropriate in unequal power relations, but which seems to me to be caring and attentive in the best of ways:

But by beginning moral inquiry from the initial position of individuals as situated social beings rather than presocial abstract individuals, the moral significance of concrete relationships will not be left behind in the move toward a generalized perspective. What is important for the practice of medicine is that moral inquiry be initiated from the concrete standpoint of the one needing attention rather than the standpoint of a generalized other and that we recognize differences between self and other at the outset.