Lives of the fellows

Paul Michael Anthony Bowden

b.1 April 1941 d.2 May 2014
MRCS LRCP(1965) MRCP(1969) MRCPsych(1973) MPhil Lond(1973) FRCPsych(1983) FRCP(1998)

Paul Bowden, a forensic psychiatrist at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley hospitals in London until he retired in 1999, left a unique impression through both his personality and his work. The criminal courts made extensive use of his expertise; his British Medical Journal obituary recorded his clarity and brevity of expression. His experience, interests and personality helped make him a uniquely effective teacher who shaped the skills and outlook of many of the senior figures within British forensic psychiatry.

He was born in the Potteries, in Stoke-on-Trent. His father, Sydney, was a clerk; his mother, Winifred (née Sammons), a teacher. At St Joseph's College in Stoke Paul led the school orchestra; music, in most of its forms, was to remain important to him throughout his life. He went on to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital Medical School, qualifying MRCS LRCP in 1965 after editing Guy’s Hospital Gazette, and then trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley.

He took up his first consultant post in 1977 at St George's Hospital, before moving back to the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley on the death of Peter Scott [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.519], one of the leading forensic psychiatrists of his time. Those who knew Scott describe him as decisive and largely self-effacing; Paul was also. The two men’s careers had significant parallels. Both chose to work for the NHS, rather than for a university, although both had academic interests. Both were sceptical that the development of regional secure units would significantly improve the lot of the imprisoned mentally ill. But Paul’s memories of his predecessor as he conveyed them to me bore on the particulars, not the generalities. He told me about opening a drawer of Scott’s desk to find a pile of threatening letters from patients.

At the Maudsley Paul’s responsibilities included an out-patient clinic, in-patient wards, adolescent offenders at Stamford House secure children’s home and Brixton Prison. He helped train doctors of all grades, most of whom were learning to care for mentally disordered offenders. He was a perceptive teacher who asked the right questions and made his students learn while making their own decisions. He was funny, sometimes waspish and clinically extremely astute. He stayed around for the hard work, when people had to be told things they did not want to hear and things needed to be done that others did not want to do.

Had he been a full time academic his academic output would have been impressive: for an NHS consultant it was remarkable. With Robert Bluglass, Paul edited the UK’s first major text on his subject, Principles and practice of forensic psychiatry (London, Churchill Livingston, 1990), writing six of the 153 chapters himself. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, which he founded, appeared in the same year; he ran the journal pretty much singlehandedly before I became editor in 1996. When I was his assistant, Paul would periodically put his head round the door and tell me I was doing nothing, but more colourfully. This irritated me and probably made me try harder. He was always a stimulating and provocative source of original ideas.

He enjoyed his retirement, which he spent with Judith, his second wife. He continued to collect books, modern first editions mostly, art and Staffordshire china. He was survived by Judith, Ann (his first wife) and their three children, Elizabeth, Thomas and Emily, and four grandchildren.

Alec Buchanan

[BMJ 2014 349 4199; The Guardian 3 June 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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