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BMJ. 2007 September 8; 335(7618): 519.
PMCID: PMC1971211

George Walter Scott

George Scott was a physician who will be remembered by a generation of doctors and who admired his outstanding clinical skill and his charm, his sense of humour, and his ability to impart knowledge and understanding in an entirely painless way. He was also a man who not only enjoyed life himself but led others to enjoy life too.

After his schooling at Epsom College, George went to Guy's Hospital as a wartime medical student—a reserved occupation so that doctors could qualify quickly and help the war effort. Characteristically, he left to enlist in the Fleet Air Arm following the death of his brother on active service. He survived the hazards of working as a pilot in South East Asia and returned to Guy's to complete his training. After qualifying in 1949 he worked on the house at Guy's and as house surgeon to Mr Russell Brock (later Lord Brock), who at first was a thoracic surgeon but at this point was developing his pioneering career in cardiac surgery. It may have been this experience that stimulated George's interest in respiratory medicine, for he then joined Dr Ernest Lloyd at the Brompton Hospital for Chest Diseases, was elected in due course to fellowship of the Thoracic Society, and proceeded to the London MD and his fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians.

In 1957 George was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and spent a year in Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins Hospital on a Guy's exchange scheme. On his return, he was welcomed not only because of his clinical acumen and teaching ability but also for his enthusiastic enjoyment of life. His sense of humour—based sometimes on his irreverent but affectionate characterisations of his senior colleagues (voice mimicry included)—was in a way an integral part of his professional makeup. He proceeded to the post of clinical tutor and in 1962 to the staff of Guy's, where, among other things, he discovered a writing talent as co-author with Kenneth Maclean of a four-volume edition of a popular treatise on medical treatment. In a lighter vein he and his colleague Bob Knight made regular satirical contributions to Guy's Hospital Gazette under the pseudonyms Ratty and Mole. As for his professional life, his considerable ability and his gentle humour attracted patients from far and near who had difficult and complex problems. So many came from the Channel Islands in particular that he chose to save them the journey by making regular visits of his own. He also got to know many of his colleagues and their families particularly well—because of the frequency with which they consulted him.

George's capacity for enjoyment was impressive: as captain of a cricket club (the Silhouettes), as the enthusiastic part-owner of a racehorse, and as a golfer and a skier. In 1990 a fall resulted in contusion of his cervical spinal cord, causing a partial quadriplegia which made walking difficult. It was in character that after this serious setback he refused to acknowledge his residual disability. He continued his professional life as before and continued to play golf, but with increasing frustration as his neurological condition gradually deteriorated. Typically, he delighted in taking advantage of the situation when he found that he could enjoy bathing in the icy waters of Alderney long after others had given up because the damage to his spinal cord made him less aware of the intensity of the cold.

During his last few years George sustained a variety of other physical afflictions, which he tolerated with typical fortitude but which further curtailed his activities. The most serious blow came when, in 2000, his wife, Brenda, suffered a severe stroke while they were visiting their son in the United States. From then on her care remained the focus and objective of his life; he became increasingly frustrated as the severity of his own disability eventually equalled or exceeded hers. He fina1ly sustained a coronary thrombosis followed by a stroke and died on the 17 May 2007.

Notes

Former consultant physician Guy's Hospital, London (b 16 December 1923; q Guy's 1949; MD, FRCP), died from coronary thrombosis followed by a stroke on 17 May 2007.


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