The Berman Institute Mourns and Honors John M. Freeman, founder of Johns Hopkins Ethics Committee

Dr. John M. FreemanThe Berman Institute family is deeply saddened, but also proud to honor and remember one of the Institute’s founding faculty members, John M. Freeman, MD, the Lederer Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Epilepsy and Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, who passed away on Friday, January 3, 2014.

A true pioneer in both medicine and biomedical ethics, Dr. Freeman was instrumental in the creation of several Johns Hopkins institutions that have forever changed its culture and quality of care for the better: the Division of Pediatric Neurology, the Johns Hopkins Ethics Committee, and the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

“John was an institutional visionary, as well as a phenomenal and extraordinary mentor,” says Berman Institute founding director Ruth Faden, PhD, MPH.  “He was absolutely certain that we could have a world-class bioethics program at Hopkins if we never gave up.   ‘Build it and they will come,’ was something John said to us time and time again,” Faden recalls.   “And we didn’t give up, and we did get a phenomenal first-rate program here at Hopkins, and John was just critical; he was the person who had the unflagging confidence in a future for bioethics at Johns Hopkins.”

Dr. Freeman was also a relentless advocate of two long-abandoned but highly effective therapies for treating epilepsy – a strict high-fat ketogenic diet, or “KD,” and hemispherectomy.  His commitment to these therapies led to a resurgence in their acceptance, and dramatic improvement in the lives of countless seriously ill children. 

Guy McKhann, MD, founding head of the Hopkins’ Department of Neurology, explains that Dr. Freeman’s “resurrection of KD,” which completely eliminated the epileptic seizures of many patients, was accomplished “virtually all by himself, against great skepticism and opposition.”

Margaret Moon, MD, MPH, the Freeman Family Scholar in Clinical Medical Ethics and a faculty member at the Berman Institute, remembers Dr. Freeman as “a wonderful teacher.” She says, “His gift was in his tremendous intellectual curiosity, his clear-eyed pragmatism and his open challenge to respect, investigate and then overcome obstacles.” Dr. Moon worked with Freeman to build an active program in clinical ethics education for trainees throughout Johns Hopkins. 

In addition to his skill as a pediatrician and neurologist, Dr. Moon and her colleagues at the Berman Institute remember Dr. Freeman’s humor, generosity and powerful understanding of compassion toward patients and their families.  “John was a wonderful friend and a mentor who personified intelligence energized by vision and bounded by humility,” Dr. Moon says.

See Also:

Johns Hopkins Medicine Community Mourns the Death of Internationally Renowned Pediatric Neurologist John M. Freeman

Dr. John M. Freeman, neurologist, Baltimore Sun