Peter George MellettBMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7554.1396-f (Published 08 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1396
Peter George MellettFormer consultant psychiatrist Horton Hospital, Epsom, and Middlesex Hospital, London (b London 1923; q Middlesex Hospital 1953; FRCPsych, DPM), died from cardiac failure on 2 March 2006.
Peter Mellett regarded medicine as much more of an art than a science, and he applied this principle to his care of patients, together with a love of poetry and sense of theatre, throughout his long and distinguished career.
Having been head boy at Latimer School in Hammersmith, he volunteered for the army in the second world war, and after training at Bletchley Park, he served as an officer in signals with the occupying army in Japan.
Qualifying at the Middlesex Hospital, and working as medical officer and senior casualty officer, he started a lifelong love affair with France by taking a post at the American Hospital in Paris. Using his fluent French and German, he was able to indulge his liking for poetry, opera, and music for several years before returning to chest medicine, working at both Harefield and the Brompton.
This led on to a keen and abiding interest in psychological factors in respiratory illnesses, especially asthma, causing him to specialise in psychiatry. He steadily became more involved in psychosomatic medicine and hypnosis, especially in the treatment of asthma. He was one of the leaders of an enthusiastic band of clinicians and researchers, who for the first time made it acceptable to talk of, measure, and treat psychological factors and social factors in illness, including effects of stress on health and a full spectrum of disease. In this exciting era of medicine, it was becoming possible for the first time to measure the physiological and biochemical links between psyche and soma. On the basis of these studies, Peter helped introduce the important concept of liaison psychiatry.
Committee meetings of the Society for Psychosomatic Research in the 1970s were a delight to attend with him as urbane host, raconteur, and president. As co-organiser of several annual conferences of the society at the Royal College of Physicians, his inspired after dinner shows of dancers and singers were as highly rated as the eminent international speakers during the day. Typical of his flair for making psychosomatic medicine interesting was the intriguing title of the conference he organised at the Royal Society of Medicine in 2002 on "Catching and harnessing our inner music," with the lectures enlivened by a group playing classical music.
He co-edited several books, including The Coming Age of Psychosomatic Medicine (1977), The Foundations of Psychosomatics (1981), and The Psychosomatic Approach (1986), as well as other texts on hypnosis. Extensive academic work included papers on psychological aspects of asthma, hyperventilation, altered states of consciousness, and theories of hypnosis. He was also past president of the Section of Medical and Dental Hypnosis of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a fellow of the International College of Psychosomatic Medicine.
He will be much missed by his colleagues and patients, to whom he gave so much of his kindness, warmth, and wisdom right to the end. He leaves a wife, Christine, and son, Edward. [Malcolm Carruthers]
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