Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 66(3) Aug 2016


Dr Peter Doherty RIP.
Past Editor of the Catholic Medical Quarterly

I first met Peter in 1975 when I joined the Essex House practice in Barnes as a trainee, being one of the first appointments to the newly formed GP Training scheme. The meeting was unusual because Peter was leaning over the engine of his old Peugeot estate cleaning the spark plugs in order to start the ancient machine for home visiting. Because, early on, I had run into criticism for my anti-abortion stance, we quickly discovered our shared Catholicism and our joint beliefs. Over the 6 month period I worked alongside him I gained much in the way of counsel, advice, instruction and support. This was never intrusive and never judgmental but always tinged with good humour and much laughter. He demonstrated a joy and an intellectual essence in practising Catholicism which was both an encouragement and an example.

We discussed many things, particularly the changes post Vatican 2 and the new morality which the 1960s had thrown up with its licence misinterpreted for convenience into the excuse of freedom. The book “Has the Catholic Church gone Mad?” had just been published and we entered many lively conversations about signs of the times. He introduced me to John Herman, a local Polish Phar­macist who owned two outlets in Barnes and one in Earl’s Court, taking me into the back of the shop to serve the alcohol based Labiton syrup and Effico which many patients took as a “Tonic“. John was the main benefactor of the Polish Club which has flourished in Hammersmith .

When, unhappy with GP work, I decided to switch to Psychiatry, Peter was helpful, encouraging and kind. His kind­ness extended very much to his patients many of whom had insoluble complex problems and suffered as much from the social and moral changes of the 1960s as they did with medical illness.

I remember his support when I dealt with a girl who asked for an abortion. She was a “Dancer “ working in the clubs and replied to the question about boyfriends with a wink and the answer “and some!” I counselled her according to the Doherty style saying that I had sympathy but was Catholic and would be glad to see her as an ante-natal patient but could not refer for abortion. Her only reply was “I’m Catholic too”. I met her several months later walking along the hospital corridor heavily pregnant, almost at delivery. Nothing was said but there was another broad wink to register the recognition. It was part of Peter’s style, stick to your guns, be pleasant, offer a positive alternative and always be kind. It worked so often and became an in­tegral part of my clinical practice.

Soon afterwards we both joined the Guild of Catholic Doctors. Peter was keen to learn more about the new teachings of the Church and joined the group of Roger Charles SJ at Farm Street. He handed on his instruction on Social Teaching and together we went to the weekly meetings at Westminster Cathedral on Philosophy conducted by Brendan Soane, then teacher of Philosophy at Allen Hall where the seminary had moved in 1975. Most discussions ended in the Cardinal pub behind the Cathedral, accompanied by humour, laughter and intelligent interpretations.

Peter was visionary in the development of the Guild of Catholic Doctors. He joined under the presidency of Jonathan Gould and persuaded me to join later, under Ian Jessiman. He was supportive of my wife who ran into diffi­culties over abortion when working under a lapsed Catholic consultant. He persuaded me to take over the treasurer’s work while not too secretly setting his ambitions on the editorial of the Quarterly.

Along with Council, under some pressure from Peter, two things were decided. Firstly the organisation needed a cen­tral office and secondly, charitable status should be sought. A small office was found in the Hospital of St John and Elizabeth where Cardinal Hume was keen to have a centre for all Catholic Medical organisations. The funding was supplied from a source that was unmentioned and today still remains a mystery. Peter and I bought furniture from MFI and a computer from Amstrad and set up a base, building the flat packs and getting data onto the hard drive from an ancient Cardex system. The aim at the time was to have part-time secretarial support and a candidate was found. Future Council meetings were based there.

While a registrar in Psychiatry, I was approached by Peter to go to an open meeting at the CMAC who were encouraging new applicants to be counsellors. Suffice it to say it did not go well and we both were chastened by the experience.

Following illness, miscarriages and depression, I stopped being treasurer and stepped back from the Guild thus distancing myself, not without much guilt and shame.

I conequently lost most contact with Peter but more recently, at the behest of my old college friend Rob Hardie, came back to the fold. I met up with Peter and had lunch and saw him at subsequent meetings. My last comment to him was “You are the same cantankerous old cynic that I met in 1975... thank God you haven’t changed a bit!” He met this with the chuckle for which I remember him.

A sage, an intellectual, a tutor, a spiritual counsellor, a friend and a fellow Christian. He will be greatly missed but his memory will remain as an icon of the Church and its primordial values.

An amazing mentor and a man who directed, encouraged, counselled and whose winning arguments directed my ca­reer and my thoughts. A saint of the highest quality and an incredible tutor. A man of intellect wit and enormous humour. A privilege to know him. A wonderful human being and a man close to God. I am stricken with grief.

I knew him therefore I am. He rests in the bosom of Christ: of that there can be no doubt.

Dr Anthony Warren

As editor of the CMQ for so many years, Peter did so much for us. But he also did much more. He was central to the establishment of the Lejeune Clinic at St John and St Elizabeth and a doughty supporter of Natural Family Planning. He was hugely supportive to all doctors whose conscience was an issue for them in medicine. More specif­ically he looked after me and my wife as junior doctors back in the 80's. He strongly supported the Catholics in Practice Committee and many other ventures.

Peter was a truly great support and friend. I certainly have both hope and confidence in his salvation. May God rest his soul.

Dr Adrian Treloar
MRCPsych, FRCP, MRCGP is a Consulant in Old Age Psychiatry.