Dr. Jameton remembered for medical ethics expertise, curiosity

Andrew Jameton, PhD

Andrew Jameton, PhD

Intellectually curious, Andrew Jameton, PhD, was a polymath who championed clinical ethics and cautioned about the coming global disruptions and hardships of climate change.

Andrew Jameton, PhD

An emeritus faculty member and longtime professor in UNMC’s Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health, Dr. Jameton died Nov. 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was 79.

His main area of interest was the philosophy and ethics of environmental health. He taught and conducted research on global ethical issues in health care and public health, including the unequal impacts of environmental degradation, ecologically responsible medicine and global climate change.

“He was widely read and deeply engaged in social justice issues,” said Rebeca Rae Anderson, JD, emeritus associate professor in the UNMC College of Public Health. “He had tremendous good will toward everyone, was excruciatingly smart and always had thoughtful, penetrating question at presentations.”

Virginia Aita, PhD, emeritus faculty with the College of Public Health’s Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, agreed. “Andy was such a scholar. Everything was interesting to him, and he had a way of asking pithy questions that went to the heart of the matter.”

In 1984, Dr. Jameton joined UNMC’s Division of Humanities and the Law in the Preventive and Societal Medicine department, which later became the College of Public Health. He lectured or guest-lectured in every college at UNMC, Anderson said, on ethics, social determinants of health, climate change and its projected effects on health and environmental concerns in health care.

In the early ’80s while investigating ethical issues in nursing, Dr. Jameton coined the term “moral distress” to describe “the psychological distress of being in a situation in which one is constrained from acting on what one knows to be right,” such as performing painful interventions without a reasonable expectation of benefit or being unable to perform needed medical care because of external constraints. The concept quickly grew to encompass other professions and circumstances.

He also was acutely concerned about the environmental consequences of the medical industrial complex, Anderson said, with its disparate impact on third world countries, which bear many of the burdens and few of the benefits of manufacture and waste disposal.

He was a member of the med center’s ethics consultation service from its inception in 1992 until his retirement; he also served on the Institutional Review Board for decades and was co-founder of City Sprouts, the first community gardening project in Omaha, now in its 28th year.

Dr. Jameton was married to UNMC’s Marsha Sullivan, past director of the speech and language disorders department in UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute. After his retirement in 2013, the couple moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he became an affiliate faculty member at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics. He was active with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Minnesota-based Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate.

In addition to many articles, Dr. Jameton authored two books: “The Ethics of Environmentally Responsible Health Care” (Oxford University Press, 2004, with Jessica Pierce, PhD) and “Nursing Practice: the Ethical Issues” (Prentice-Hall, 1984).

Dr. Jameton earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and his PhD in philosophy from the University of Washington in Seattle. He enjoyed the visual and performing arts, science fiction, gardening and conversations with friends and family.

He is survived by his wife, Marsha; stepson, Colbey, and his wife, Megan, and their two children; and his daughter, Rachel, and her three children.

Memorials may be directed to Physicians for Social Responsibility or City Sprouts, Inc.


  1. Bill O'Neill says:

    Dr. Jameton was a true treasure. He will be missed.

  2. Tom O’Connor says:

    What an excellent tribute! Andy was a true intellectual – it was always a more interesting meeting when he was in the room. He never shied away from asking the difficult question. My condolences to Marsha and the family – Andy will be missed.

  3. James Newland says:

    We had such good conversations together over the years. We worked together doing ethics consultations where Andy was both consultant and teacher. Thanks, Andy.

  4. Jane F Potter says:

    Andy taught me about the threat of climate change to human health in the 1980’s when almost no one else at UNMC was talking about it. I vividly remember the look in his eyes that spoke to the urgency of climate change.

    While Andy took the big issues seriously, he was also a lot of fun! And was a great teacher to boot.

    Condolences to Marsha Sullivan and the rest of their family.

  5. Kara Foster says:

    What a great tribute to a wonderful teacher. Dr. Jameton will surely be remembered!

  6. Laura Vinson says:

    Dr. Jameton was truly one-of-a-kind. He always helped students challenge their thinking. He will be greatly missed by those who knew him!

    My deepest sympathy to his family.

  7. Howard Gendelman says:

    A special man he was. Will leave an enduring legacy of integrity and selflessness. Feel honored to have worked with him. A treasure lost but an impression forever.

  8. Ellen Duysen says:

    What a lovely tribute! If you were fortunate enough to know Andy you were a lucky soul. Andy was a brilliant visionary, humanitarian, fierce protector of our natural world, powerful voice for those in our Omaha community who needed representation, a quirky rascal, incredible instructor and a very good friend. He will be sorely missed.

  9. Sonja Franziska Tutsch says:

    Your insights were truly deep and profound, Dr. Jameton. You put a great big ding into the universe. I will never forget our time together at Citysprouts, and my first ethics class with you.

  10. Sonja F. Tutsch says:

    Your insights were truly deep and profound, Dr. Jameton. You put a great big ding into the universe. I will never forget our time together at Citysprouts, and my first ethics class with you.

  11. Rebecca Rae Anderson says:

    A lovely tribute from former UNMC colleague Toby Schonfeld, Ph.D:

  12. Jessica Tschirren says:

    I have so many wonderful memories of Dr. Jameton. He was such an engaging personality. He will be greatly missed.

  13. Jim White says:

    Andy was my classmate and dear friend at St. Louis Country Day School. I was privileged to be able to stay in contact with him over the years and share his zest for life and debate. I will miss him.

  14. Mary Haven says:

    Dr. Jameton challenged us all. What a privilege it was to discuss with him the ethics curriculum for our allied health professions students. His insights expanded our understanding and improved student learning. My condolences to Marsha Sullivan, his daughter Rachel and the rest of the family.

  15. Maurice Godfrey says:

    Andy, was a true friend, kind hearted, deep thinker. He will be missed but the memories will linger. Condolences to all his friends and colleagues and special thoughts to Marsha.

  16. Ann Kraft says:

    I was fortunate to work with Andy on a number of occasions. I enjoyed many conversations with him. He had a special talent for being off the cuff and light-hearted and intellectually challenging at the same time. My condolences to Marsha and the rest of the family on his passing.

  17. Ali S Khan says:

    Although Prof Jameton had retired before I was Dean, I had the pleasure to interact with him on a number of occassions about social justice, environmental health, and climate change. Prescient is the best word to describe Andy. The College and University were truly honored to have him as faculty. Condolences to his family.

  18. Sarah E. Shannon says:

    Andy Jameton made indelible contributions to nursing ethics and environmental ethics. I remember the first time I met him. I was a PhD student and he went out of his way to be supportive, encouraging and offered insightful advice that helped shape my career. Many condolences to his family and friends on the loss of a wonderful person.

  19. Carl Greiner, M.D. says:

    Andy Jameton was a scholar, mentor, and friend. He had the knack of taking the conversation to a deeper level and place it in a wider context. He will be greatly missed. Condolences to the family

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