George C. Webster remembers Canadian bioethics pioneer Dr. Abbyann Lynch.
Dr. Abbyann Lynch died on Sunday, July 14, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario.
Remembering and honouring the life of a woman whose scholarship, practical wisdom and example influenced the lives of so many is a task undertaken with a sense of profound gratitude.
Abby was a true pioneer and leader in the Canadian Bioethics community. Her contributions as a builder of this community include her work as a founding member of the Canadian Bioethics Society and a Charter Member of the National Council on Bioethics in Human Research. Abby was the Director of The Westminster Institute for Ethics and Human Values in London, Ontario and the founding Director of the Bioethics Department at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario.
Abby was a gifted teacher. I remember her patience and gentleness, but also the discipline and rigour she brought to her teaching and consultations. When teaching health care professionals, she would often begin with the question: “What kind of world do you want to live in…?” In asking this fundamental ethical question, others could more readily identify “the ethical” in their own day-to-day practices and routines.
Abby held numerous academic appointments over the course of her career in the Faculties of Medicine, Arts and Science, Dentistry, Nursing and Social Work at the University of Toronto. She had similar appointments at Western University in London, Ontario. She was sought out as a visiting lecturer at Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia, Memorial University, Queen’s University, the University of Winnipeg, and the University of Manitoba. Internationally, she was an invited lecturer at Xian University in China and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
In addition to her academic work, Abby served on many government and voluntary boards and committees. She was a member of the Health Canada Expert Advisory Committee on Blood Regulation and the Ontario Gaucher Disease Committee. Abby served as President of the National Council on Ethics in Human Research, and was a Board Member of the Women’s Television Foundation, the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly and St. Elizabeth Health Care. Notably, Abby also served on the Board of the U.S. Society for Bioethics Consultation which ultimately evolved into the American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities.
From 1997-2002, Dr. Lynch served as the President of Associated Medical Services supporting initiatives in the history of medicine and in bioethics. Later in her career, Dr. Lynch was Founder and Director of Ethics in Health Care Associates. As Director, she continued to provide ethics consultations and invaluable support to health care professional groups and professional colleges. She also continued to provide extensive education to Boards and health care professionals across Canada.
Dr. Lynch was rightly recognized for her contributions to the health care community and wider society. She was the first named recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Bioethics Society (2004). She received Honorary Degrees from a number of Universities in Canada and she was awarded the Order of Ontario (1993) and was named a Member of the Order of Canada (1997).
For me personally, Abby was a true mentor and friend. She supported me not only in my early work in clinical ethics in Toronto, but throughout my career as a health care ethics consultant and teacher in Winnipeg.
Abby was an incredibly generous person. Because she worked tirelessly and quietly, my guess is that many more people than we will ever know have benefited from her vast experience, scholarship, wisdom, and hospitality.
Perhaps more than anything, I remember her as a faithful friend. She was a kind and gentle spirit in an often unforgiving world.
I will always remember and cherish our friendship.
Thank you Abbyann.
I miss you already…
George C. Webster is a retired Clinical Ethicist who worked with the Health Care Ethics Service at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He now resides in Kelowna, British Columbia.