Obituary: Professor Douglas Bevis

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The Independent Online
Douglas Charles Aitchison Bevis, obstetrician, gynaecologist: born Ealing 28 May 1919; consultant, Park Hospital, Manchester 1952-67; Reader in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sheffield University Hospital 1967-73; Professor of Obstretrics and Gynaecology, Leeds University Hospital 1973-84; married (two sons); died Sheffield 25 June 1994.

DOUGLAS BEVIS was one of a group of obstetricians and gynaecologists trained in Manchester in the immediate post-war period who made a great contribution to obstetrics and gynaecology. His was the first academic department in this speciality based at St James's Hospital, Leeds, and he laid the foundation for its subsequent success.

Born in Ealing, Bevis was educated at William Hulme's School, in Manchester, and his undergraduate medical education was completed at Manchester University, where he qualified in 1943. After house-surgeon posts at Burnley Victoria Hospital and St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, he became a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Navy, serving first in the Mediterranean and then in the East Indies. His postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology started after the Second World War at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester. It was at this time that Bevis first showed an originality of thought and an ability to push forward ideas into practice.

He made a significant contribution to reducing the tragic loss of babies' lives from rhesus disease by his early original work on amniocentesis, drawing off fluid from around the fetus in order to establish how severely affected the baby might be by this disease. His observations and techniques were first published in 1950, but it was several years before their importance was fully accepted. He received more recognition abroad than at home for this work.

Appointed as a consultant at Park Hospital, Manchester, in 1952, Bevis continued his work with rhesus disease. The potential to spend more time in research led him in 1967 to take up a Senior Lecturer's post at Sheffield University in Professor Scott Russell's department. He researched into problems in infertility, particularly the male aspects, and more especially into in vitro fertilisation.

Bevis moved to Leeds in 1973 as Professor of Obstretrics and Gynaecology at St James's Hospital and immediately began to build up a new academic department. Great controversy surrounded his revelation at the 1974 annual conference of the British Medical Association that in vitro fertilisation had been successfully achieved. The media and professional pressure which ensued, almost proved too much for him and he withdrew from further work in this field.

He and the group of friends whom he had trained with went on to found a travelling club, the Fothergill Club, which still arranges visits to centres of excellence in Britain and abroad. It had the then unusual custom of always inviting the partners of members to join the visits and he and his wife, Eve, greatly enjoyed the social friendships that this formed.

Douglas Bevis was known to all his friends as 'Tiger', though this alluded to his youthful exploits on the rugby field and not to his general demeanour. He will be remembered as a modest man of quiet charm, kind to his patients and helpful to his staff. He had many interests outside medicine including music and literature. Always good with his hands, he worked in silver and had his own hallmark when working in Sheffield and produced some remarkably fine scale-model constructions.

(Photograph omitted)