Ross Taylor

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 11 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:646

A kidney transplant pioneer

In 2002 a total of 1775 kidneys were transplanted in the United Kingdom. This is a far cry from the 1970s when innovative surgeons were developing their skills and transplant medicine was in its infancy. Ross Taylor was a pioneer in transplantation surgery and trained many of today's leading surgeons in that field. As director of the transplant unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, from 1970 to 1995, he was much involved not only in the technical side but also the ethical, moral, and organisational issues surrounding this new era of medicine. He was acknowledged worldwide as an expert in his field and inspired and motivated hundreds to raise money so that others could finish what he had started.

After house officer posts at Ballochmyle Hospital and Kilmarnock Infirmary, Ross served for two years in the Parachute Regiment in Cyprus and Jordan, treasuring his red beret for the rest of his life. His early postgraduate training focused on surgical disciplines, including obstetrics and gynaecology in Bishop Auckland. He was awarded his MS by the University of Glasgow and gained fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1964 and England in 1965.

In 1967 he was part of the team that completed the first kidney transplant in the north of England. It was in the field of transplantation that Ross distinguished himself, completing in excess of 2000 kidney transplants, and in one 24 hour period in 1990 performing no less than four renal transplants. However, his contributions to surgery were in no way limited to this specialty and he had a wide ranging practice encompassing vascular surgery and a broad spectrum of general surgical procedures. He was visiting surgeon to Berwick Infirmary until his retirement in 1995.

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Aware of the importance of organ donation in ensuring a satisfactory transplantation rate for patients with end stage renal failure, Ross used his role on several advisory boards and committees to advocate for the adoption of “required request” legislation, holding emergency room doctors accountable for broaching the sensitive subject of organ donations to grieving families. He was also closely involved in drafting the Human Organ Transplant Act, making illegal the commercialisation of human tissue.

The development of an infrastructure of support for transplant patients was a priority for Ross. The transplant coordinator role, pioneered in Newcastle to provide support to families dealing with traumatic experiences of transplantation, now serves as the blueprint for all transplant centres around the country. Under his chairmanship, the Northern Counties Kidney Research Fund financed a new transplant unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. At the age of 50 Ross took up distance running and ran four marathons and the Great North Run 13 times. For these alone he raised over £500 000 for the fund.

As chairman of the Transplant Games for 15 years, he took enormous pleasure in nurturing an organisation that celebrates transplant recipients' return to normal life through their participation in an annual three day festival of sport. He also founded and chaired the Transplant Patients Trust, which seeks to provide support for families burdened financially by renal failure.

Ross was president of the British Transplantation Society from 1986 to 1989 and the North of England Surgical Society from 1990 to 1991, chairman of the UK Transplant Multi-Organ Sharing Group from 1987 to 1990, a member of the Department of Health Transplant Publicity Group from 1987 to 1995, and chairman of the British Transplantation Society Training Committee from 1986 to 1993.

He had a passion for sports (particularly tennis, golf, and cricket) and loved music, including Gilbert and Sullivan and jazz. He leaves a wife, Margaret, and four children.

Robert Murray Ross Taylor, consultant surgeon and director of the transplant unit Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1970-95 (b 1932; q Glasgow 1956; FRCS, FRCS Ed, CBE), d 24 October 2003.

[T W J Lennard]


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