Michael Brough

Plastic surgeon who after the King's Cross fire set up the Phoenix Appeal and the Healing Foundation
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The Independent Online

Michael David Brough, surgeon: born London 4 July 1942; President, British Association of Plastic Surgeons 2002; married 1974 Geraldine Sleigh (two sons, two daughters); died London 18 November 2004.

The much-misunderstood term "plastic surgery" derives from the German Plastischen Chirurgie, essentially "reshaping" or reconstructive surgery, and covers a wide spectrum from repairing damage of burns and injuries through improving appearance with psychological benefit. Michael Brough had to draw on all these techniques when faced with the severely burned survivors of the King's Cross fire.

On 18 November 1987 a wooden escalator at the London underground station burst into flames; the intense fire in a confined space resulted in 30 deaths; 14 survivors suffered flame burns and smoke inhalation. At the nearby University College Hospital, the disaster plan was mobilised and Brough's surgical team operated for several days to remove burned tissue and apply skin grafts.

After months of managing scars and contractures, Brough came to appreciate that much better treatments were needed for the physical and psychological damage that burn survivors faced. He devoted himself to the task of organising funding for research into new treatments, first by setting up the Phoenix Appeal and later establishing a new national charity, the Healing Foundation.

Such a task required vision, enormous energy and sheer hard work, and Brough combined these attributes with a calm, gentle manner and a wonderful sense of humour. He had displayed commitment and stamina in sports such as modern pentathlon at Westminster School and later at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he read Medicine. He undertook his clinical training at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1968. His first consultant appointment was in Billericay in Essex; thereafter he worked in surgical units in central London, at St Pancras Hospital and University College Hospital, and at the Royal Free in Hampstead.

Brough set up the Phoenix Appeal in 1988, with the Duke of Edinburgh as patron. The appeal was able to fund the establishment of the first university department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, at University College London.

To make an impact in developing new treatments, however, a national effort would be needed. In 1998, as Treasurer of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons (he was later President), Brough put his diplomatic skills and quiet powers of persuasion to the test. He convinced the association to commit a significant sum of money, as a donation, to help establish the Healing Foundation, to champion the cause of people living with disfigurement by funding pioneering research into surgical and psychological healing techniques.

Brough was to become the engine-room of the charity, patiently seeing it through its registration and detailed start-up process, as well as taking charge of its "front of house" activities - he conducted tours of the plastic surgery ward at the Royal Free to inspire potential donors and key supporters. Chris Patten became chairman of the foundation, and David Jones, founder of Next plc, Fundraising Appeal chairman.

Brough would have been proud, by the time of his death from lung cancer, to see a robust and respected charity, with a Centre of Tissue Regeneration established at Manchester University and the largest study of the psychological effects of disfigurement about to begin in Bristol, at the University of the West of England.

It was not unusual, once Brough knew of his fate, to find him discussing in detail how best his demise could be used as a fund-raising opportunity for the charity. The Healing Foundation has established a special fund which (though he would be embarrassed by the accolade) will be known as "The Michael Brough Research Fund".

Brendan Eley and Duncan Angus McGrouther