Pioneer of women’s health care dies at 88

A PIONEERING doctor from Hampstead who revolutionised healthcare for women has died at the age of 88

Tan Parsons

A PIONEERING doctor from Hampstead who revolutionised healthcare for women has died at the age of 88.

Professor Norman Morris was the first doctor to allow husbands into the labour wards to witness their wives give birth and later became the first person to carry out a water birth in the UK.

Prof Morris died on February 29 at the Wellington Hospital in St John's Wood after a short illness.

He was one of the last surviving senior doctors from the inception of the NHS in 1948 and was committed to stopping the NHS going private. He also brought into the world the children of celebrities and politicians including those of Tony Benn.

"He was a professor of medicine, a humanist and an educator. He was naughty - he enjoyed himself and he had fun," said his son Nick.

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"As a pioneer of women's health he changed women's health services for ever by challenging what had gone before. He thought these services had previously been inhumane and unjust to women."

Prof Morris specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology at Charing Cross Hospital and was the first person to start parenting classes for fathers. He lived in Hampstead for more then 50 years, first in Provost Road and later in Eton Avenue.

In 1960 he wrote a paper in the Lancet called Human Relations and Obstetric Practice. It had no references and was drawn entirely from observations of his patients. Last year the paper was published again, alongside others on the Epstein-Barr virus and the first hip replacement, by the Lancet in series the publication considered the most important papers of the previous century.

During his career he delivered the children not only of Labour politician Tony Benn but comedian Barry Humphries - and also brought the actress Rachel Weisz into the world.

With his wife, Lucy, he had four children, who all became doctors - David is a consultant endocrinologist, Jackie a consultant geriatrician, Vanessa, a consultant rheumatologist and Nick an obstetrician like his father.

Nick said: "We are all incredibly proud to be doctors. My father loved Hampstead and was often helping out his wife Lucy in her shop, the Hampstead Antiques Emporium and at her other antiques shops in Camden Town.

"He loved the Heath and like many of his generation was drawn to the area because of his love of humanity.

"Norman and Lucy Morris' parties were legendary. His friends ranged from Barry Humphries to Jacqueline du Pre. They weren't just celebrities but also fledgling actors, doctors and academics."

Mr Morris was a tireless local campaigner and in the 1970s he formed the Hampstead Motorway Action Group, which successfully opposed plans to build a motorway through Hampstead.

He fought a wide range of issues and even in his last week of life he was involved in fighting the potential closure of the post office in England's Lane.

Although officially retired for the past 20 years he was still working as a doctor until his sudden death last week. He was buried at the Hoop Lane Reform Cemetery on Monday.

His son added: "My father was multicultural and despised any form of racism - he saw no boundaries. In his medical practice he expected people to understand the science and the technology but he demanded that they understand the humanity.

"He spent his life ensuring dignity for his patients and he died in great dignity at the Wellington Hospital with his family by his side."