Rev. Kevin O'Rourke, 85, expert on health care ethics and bioethics

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Rev. Kevin David O'Rourke, O.P., of the Dominican Central Province of St. Albert the Great, died peacefully at Rush Hospital in Chicago on March 28, 2012. He told everyone present in his room that he was "going home" that day.

Born on March 3, 1927 in Park Ridge to William O'Rourke and Winifred Stanton O'Rourke, he was the youngest of seven siblings, all of whom preceded him in death.

A 1945 graduate of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, he played three years of football before injuring his back his senior year. As a senior, he helped coach Dan O'Brien manage the freshman football squad. He was also editor of the yearbook and president of Confraternity. Fr. O'Rourke is a former Fenwick High School board member, a Life Trustee, member of the school's hall of fame and recipient of the St. Martin de Porres Award in 2007 in recognition of his meritorious service to the medical profession.

He attended the University of Notre Dame for two years before entering the Dominican Order in 1947. Before that he had also served in the U.S. Navy. In 1954, he was ordained a priest and later went on to receive his JCD (Juris Canonici Doctor) from St. Thomas University in Rome in 1958. He was awarded an STM (Master of Sacred Theology), a degree given by the Dominican Order after outstanding teaching and writing of many years.

Fr. O'Rourke was regarded as a leading authority on health care ethics and bioethics, writing several books and publishing over a hundred articles examining such issues as genetic testing, surrogate decision-making and physician-assisted suicide. For many years he wrote a column, "Ethical Issues," published in Parameters 80, the quarterly publication of St. Louis University Medical Center.

His interests in the behavioral sciences, theology, preaching and writing, led him through an illustrious career that started in 1958 at Aquinas Institute of Theology (then, in Dubuque, Iowa), first, as a professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law, then becoming the institute's president from 1969 to 1972. His career also included: graduate fellow at the University of Chicago, 1972-1973; director of Medical Moral Affairs, Catholic Hospital Association, 1973; member of the National Advisory Committee, NCCB/USCC, 1968-1974; consultant to the Committee on Canon Law, NCCB, 1968; chairman of the CLSA Religious Life Committee, 1964-1967; chairman of the CLSA Committee to Evaluate Revised Code, 1969-1973; vice president of the Midwest Association of Theological Schools, 1971-1972; chairman of the Association Theological Faculties in Iowa, 1969-1971; director of Religious Life Institutes at the University of San Francisco, the University of Dallas, and St. Xavier University in Chicago, 1966-1969; director of Workshops on Religious Renewal at Rosary College (1967), St. Mary's of Notre Dame (1968, 1969), and Marymount College (1971); director of Medical Moral Affairs at Catholic Hospital Association in St. Louis, 1973-1978; and director of the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University Medical Center in St. Louis, 1979. At the time of his death, Fr. O'Rourke was a scholar at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University in Maywood.

Kevin O'Rourke is survived by his many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, the youngest of whom he recently baptized.

Reception of the body took place on April 2 at St. Vincent Ferrer Church, 1530 Jackson Avenue in River Forest. A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Vincent Ferrer Church on April 3.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Ashley-O'Rourke Faculty Chair Fund in Health Care Mission at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, c/o Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great, 2005 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60608. The purpose of the fund is "to promote teaching, Catholic health care and ethics."

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