Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 66(2) May 2016


Dr Peter Doherty RIP
General Practitioner,
Editor of The Catholic Medical Quarterly
and much more besides! 

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Dr Peter Doherty on the 3rd March 2016. Peter Doherty was, for many years, the editor of the CMQ. His achievements are something that we can only try to emulate. As a member of the Editorial board, right up until his death, he continued to gently steer us towards the place he thought we should be. As he looks down from his heavenly reward, we ask for his prayers and help with out ongoing work, building the Gospel of Life in Medicine, Nursing and all health care.

Peter Doherty, who was for many years the Editor of the Catholic Medical Quarterly, died on March 3rd 2016. He was busy, active and contrary as always, right until the end of his life. He had a stroke in his sleep on February 29th, never regained consciousness and died peacefully and painlessly three days later. It was the death he would have wanted.

He was born in Lancashire in 1924, the youngest of four brothers, into a traditional Irish Catholic family. He was educated in Dublin at Blackrock College and University College before – because of his mother’s concerns about German submarines patrolling the Irish Sea during the Second World War – transferring to Liverpool where he qualified in 1946. He had an eclectic career. He did his National Service in the Suez Canal Zone, followed by eighteen months working with one of his brothers, Kevin, in a Refugee Camp for displaced Palestinians in Jordan. He obtained a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene in London in 1953, before joining the Foreign Office as Medical Advisor to the British Resident in the Persian Gulf, based in Bahrain. He then spent a year as a Registrar in the Dept. of Paediatrics at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He rejoined the Foreign Office and went to Oman, but after eighteen months and a slight dis­agreement with the Omani authorities about precisely how a smallpox outbreak should be managed, he returned to England. He became a General Practitioner in the West Country, moved to Barnes in West London in 1961 and stayed there in partnership with Alwyn Kinsey until they both retired in 1990.

Just before his death in 2002, his brother Kevin set up a charitable trust to promote health and education projects and left the Trust in Peter’s hands. The Trust was quite unusual. Nobody received a lot of money, nobody got anything without a visit from the Trustees. Over the year, the Trust has supported projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, South Africa, Zimbabwe [1] and Israel as well as within the United Kingdom – each got a visit, the last being a trip to Ethiopia in 2014.

He participated in setting up the Lejeune Clinic which helped children with Down's Syndrome 25 years ago. The National Health Service at that time had very little to offer in the way of advice for parents and the Clinic based at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London filled a much needed gap. The Clinic finally became the Clinic for Children with Down's Syndrome. Peter’s view of the world and his approach to medicine were both predicated on his very devout faith in the Catholic Church – which left little room for any doubt.

Peter was never short of an opinion on any topic – politics, religion, ethics, anything that was happening anywhere in the world. He loved putting the world to rights, he loved people and a party, books about anything, usually read with a pipe and a tot of whiskey, propped up in bed. Gin was essential, tonic ridiculously expensive. And apart from the price of tonic, there was nothing that could not be used as the basis for a funny story around the kitchen table at “Nausea” where he lived for the last 53 years of his life.

In 1953, Peter married Barbara Baker with whom he had three children, who all survive him. He would have liked you all to remember him in your prayers.

We are very grateful to his family from having submitted the first and major part of this obituary.


Dr Peter Doherty RIP
By Dr Ian Jessiman,
Retired General Practitioner and Former President and Treasurer (etc!) of The Catholic Medical Association

Peter Doherty 1924-2016

If the world was divided into Enthusiasts and the Rest, then Peter would undoubtedly among the former. As Treasurer I sometimes found this a bit alarming, but Peter always ensured that the financial aspects of things were properly catered for.

Prior to 1990 the Guild of Catholic Doctors had been run by the respective Secretaries from their own homes. At about this time Cardinal Hume decided that there should be a ‘beacon of excellence’ for Catholic medicine, based at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, and we began to use the lecture room in their Nurses’ home for our meetings. The Hospital provided us with an office for a peppercorn rent, but it was Peter who undertook the donkey work of getting it all set up and finding a secretary, as well as a source of funds to help cover the costs. It was he who arranged for us to become a Charity, a move which has proved invaluable (particularly financially) over the past 24 years.

Peter was also involved in the setting up of the Lejeune clinic (for Downs Children) at the Hospital and arranged for us to share an office and a full time secretary with them. He was also instrumental in setting up a ‘Guild of Catholic Doctors Research Fund’ predominantly to fund research into Catholic treatments particularly in the gynaecological field. Although this did purchase a vaginal ultrasound for a specific project, it was never pos­sible to carry out enough research to lead to publication and the residual monies were eventually used towards the CMA website, etc.

Meanwhile, in August 1990, when Bill Reynolds retired at 90, Peter took over as Editor of the Catholic Medical Quarterly and set a high standard for our Journal, which is undoubtedly a most important representation of us to the outside world. He remained as Editor for the next 18 years.

True, he had a subeditor (Seymour Spencer) for his first edition as he was away in Africa working on a mission at the time! One notable feature of his Quarterly was the light hearted ‘commentary’ on current issues conducted between Tadpole (Peter himself) and Old Frog (Seymour Spencer). It has to be said that (at least in the minds of some) the latter sometimes seemed to exceed the bounds of propriety! He also introduced cartoons.

He was always active in the running of the Southwark Branch, ensuring a regular day of reflection each year and an AGM as well as other talks and meetings as seemed appropriate.

Peter was a man of definite views, although always very fair to those of others, seeking to ensure the presentation of both sides of any argument. A basic kindness and a sense of jollity/humour about him shone through at all times. We shall undoubtedly miss his wise contributions at Council.


Dr Peter Doherty RIP
By Dr Tony Cole, Paediatrician and Former President of The Catholic Medical Association

Jerome Lejeune, the geneticist who described the genetics of Downs Syndrome, was a staunch Catholic and estab­lished a clinic for Downs children in Paris which drew families from across Europe, including a dozen or so from the UK. When he was ill, he asked the Guild of Catholic Doctors if they could find doctors to see these children in London. Peter took this up enthusiastically and with help from the Hospital of St John and Saint Elizabeth (which could be described as a Catholic hospital in those days) established a clinic in his name.

Later, after much support from his daughter Claire, the clinic grew by word of mouth, to become one of the largest clinics for Downs children in the country. Peter`s enthusiasm however became known to T V producers and an inspirational video was made and the clinic undertook one of Lejeune`s unfinished research projects.

After his death, the cause for the canonisation of Lejeune has been opened by the Archbishop of Paris so Peter and Jerome can now compare notes!