Ken Owen

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 29 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5944
  1. Tim Owen

Ken Owen qualified during the second world war and during his surgical house job dealt with trauma cases returning from the Normandy landings. He then worked for four years as a medical officer with the Sudanese medical service at Gezeira. He returned to London to start surgical training, during which time he spent a year in Boston on a Fulbright scholarship doing research at Harvard on renal damage after trauma. A year spent at St Peter’s Hospital in London further developed his interest in urology and nephrology.

He was appointed consultant general surgeon at the Royal Northern Hospital and became their urologist. Shortly afterwards he obtained a consultant post at St Mary’s, where again he developed and then expanded the urology service. He accepted a third consultant post at St Peter’s Hospital and was appointed to the staff at King Edward VIIth Hospital. A pattern was set of a very full work timetable energetically addressed by long working hours. He eventually gave up the post at the Royal Northern, but an active private practice meant that he was as busy as before.

He developed his hospital service and himself from general surgery to urology, but he retained an interest in vascular surgery, parathyroid and adrenal surgery. He pioneered renal transplant surgery at St Mary’s and trained and mentored the next generation of urologists there. He was a technically skilled and meticulous surgeon, whose clinical opinion was sought and highly valued by colleagues in the UK and more widely.

He was an enthusiast for meeting with, and learning from, colleagues and was active in two travelling surgical societies. In his private practice he was referred many patients from overseas, and he had particularly strong links with colleagues in the Middle East, Germany, Scandinavia, Austria, and Italy. His service to public figures in the latter was recognised with honours, comendatore—Order of Merit—Italian Republic, 1973, and grand officer—Order of Merit—Italian Republic, 1976. He was active in many medical societies and, when president of the urological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, he was proud to have started the tradition of an annual ski meeting.

In later professional life he became a respected expert witness in medicolegal work, and, after retiring from the NHS, he worked for many years on medical tribunals for the armed services.

Outside medicine his activities were also characterised by energetic enthusiasms. Ken built up and ran a dairy farm in south Wales from London while a consultant, and after retiring he kept sheep until out of hours lambing got too tiring. He enjoyed horse riding: playing polo in the Sudan, and fox hunting at home. He was a keen linguist and completed a degree in German language and literature in his 80s. Gardening provided him with pleasure and relaxation from work. He created several beautiful gardens in his life and was a knowledgeable plantsman. Other activities included listening to opera and classical music and baking bread.

He leaves a wife, Barbara; three children and, eight grandchildren.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5944


  • Former consultant urologist St Mary’s Hospital, London (b 1920; q 1944; FRCS), died from complications of abdominal surgery for ischaemic small bowel on 7 June 2013.

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