Malcolm O Perry

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 17 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c922
  1. Ned Stafford

Surgeon who fought to save the lives of the US president John F Kennedy and his accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald

Had it not been for a simple twist of fate, Malcolm O Perry II would not have become an important footnote in the history of the assassination of the US president John F Kennedy.

On Friday 22 November 1963 Dr Perry was eating lunch with his chief surgical resident in the Parkland Memorial Hospital cafeteria in Dallas, Texas. Perry, a 34 year old assistant professor of surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, heard an urgent page for the chief emergency surgeon. But the chief surgeon was at a conference, and Perry asked the resident to answer. Moments later the resident reported back: the US president has been shot, and he’s being brought here. The two men sprang up and rushed towards the trauma room.

Losing battle

Perry led the surgical team, performing a tracheotomy in the losing battle to save the life of 46 year old Kennedy. Two days later, he performed open heart massage on severely wounded Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s accused assassin.

Fiemu E Nwariaku, a protégé of Perry in the 1990s, says that his mentor did not feel he had been “lucky or unlucky” to have been a participant in one of the key historical events of the 20th century. Dr Nwariaku, vice chairman of the surgery department at Southwestern, says, “Fate put him there. He got thrown into something he had no control over.”

At a hospital press conference hours after Kennedy died, Perry answered questions and was quoted as saying that the gunshot wound just below …

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