OBITUARY : Professor Douglas Miller

Over the past decade and a half when any of my (often most vulnerable) constituents have come to see me about problems related to head injury or mental illness, I would ask them in whose hands their treatment lay. Often the answer was "Professor Douglas Miller of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh". "In which case," I could truthfully say, "you are in the hands of one of the most gifted neurosurgeons in the world."

Not only was Douglas Miller one of the most distinguished neurosurgeons, but he was also a supremely caring man of medicine, who took a sustained interest in what became of his patients. He was genuinely loved and respected, moreover, by those who worked for him: junior doctors, nurses or cleaning staff. In all his work he was marvellously supported by his wife Margot, herself a distinguished nurse and matron.

Alas, the M8 motorway and its predecessor the A8 three-lane road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, running through my constituency, has been notorious for the many appalling motor accidents that have happened on it, often involving severe head injuries. Miller, to my first-hand knowledge, would turn out at any hour of day or night to apply his expertise. It was the consensus of his colleagues both in the Western General Hospital and at Edinburgh University to whom I talked that no one in Europe knew more about the problems associated with intracranial pressure or was more skilled at dealing with them.

Miller was born in Glasgow of a father who worked as an executive for Collins the publishers. At Glasgow Academy, then as now a testing academic school, he distinguished himself and went to the university intending to read modern languages. In midstream he decided to change and, without a science background, was accepted into the medical faculty who suspected that he was a student of great talent. In this they were right.

During the period when he rotated, as every medical student had to, from orthopaedics which had been his first interest, he came across Bryan Jennett, the world-renowned neurosurgeon. Such was Jennett's influence that Miller decided to make his life in neurosurgery. Jennett told me yesterday: "Miller was involved in developing organised care for patients suffering from head injuries in collaboration with accident surgeons and anaes- thetists. He devised means of measuring and treating the dangerous high intracranial pressures that often complicate such injuries. He was also active in laboratory experimentation in this field in Glasgow, Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia."

It is a widespread view in the biological sciences faculty of Edinburgh University that their colleague Miller was in the world class of expertise in the complications of head injuries. He was extremely prominent on the international stage of neurosurgery. Only weeks ago, for example, he was at the important conference on head injury at Toronto, giving a paper on neuro-traumas, "Brain Ischaemia after head injury: Monitoring the Threat". Earlier this summer he was in Berlin at the General Conference on Neurosurgery addressing his colleagues from all round the world on "secondary insults in head injury and clinical trials". He was a prominent figure at the congresses of the European Association of Neurosurgeons. And young neurosurgeons from many countries spent time in his clinics and laboratories as part of their training.

Miller was also in the last couple of years deeply concerned about government actions in withdrawal of money destined for pure research and last month at a Cambridge workshop, sponsored by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, contributed a powerful paper on "The Threat to Academic Neurosurgery: The Consequences of Government Cut-Backs".

My friend and Parliamentary colleague Professor Sam Galbraith, now Labour Member of Parliament for Bearsden but in a previous incarnation himself a distinguished professor of neurosurgery in Glasgow and a close friend and colleague of Miller, told me yesterday: "Douglas worked hard and played hard. He was able to combine scientific brilliance, with a full and enjoyable life. Douglas always had time for his family, friends and, possibly unusual in his profession, his junior colleagues. One night at a conference in the United States, Douglas, another professor and myself sat up the whole night drinking. After a shower, Douglas then delivered a quite brilliant lecture on head injury. That was the measure of the man."

On Wednesday morning when it was known in Edinburgh that Douglas Miller had died there was a sense of lacuna not only in the Western General Hospital and the medical faculty of the University, but throughout a wide sector of life of the Festival city.

James Douglas Miller, neurosurgeon: born Glasgow 20 July 1937; Surgical Senior House Officer and Registrar, Glasgow 1962-65; Medical Research Council Fellow 1965-67; US Public Health Service Fellow in Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania, 1969-71; Senior Lecturer in Neurosurgery, Glasgow University 1971-81; Professor of Neurosurgery, Virginia Commonwealth University 1975; Professor of Surgical Neurology, Edinburgh University 1981- 95; married 1965 Margaret (Margot) Rainey (two sons); died Edinburgh 23 August 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London