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Caroline Deys

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 02 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5761
  1. Henry W W Potts

Caroline Merula Deys was born in London on 2 July 1938 to Adolf Deys and Daisy Barragwanath. Her father was killed in a bombing raid early in the second world war and her mother subsequently married psychiatrist William Paterson Brown. Together with her half sister, Diana, Caroline attended St Paul’s Girls’ School, where she was an exhibitioner. Encouraged by her stepfather to follow his profession, she enrolled at Barts to study medicine. She was in a class with one other woman and 98 men, and one of the first 100 women to attend the medical school.

After qualifying Deys specialised in ophthalmology, with a year as a senior house officer at the Glasgow Eye Infirmary; she obtained her diploma in ophthalmology in 1964. She was a registrar in ophthalmology in Salisbury in 1965-6, where she also trained in family planning under Dr Dorothy Morgan, a change in career partly brought about by her forthcoming marriage to Dr Malcolm Potts in December 1966. She worked with Potts and many others on the successful campaign to legalise abortion in the UK, leading to the 1967 Abortion Act. In 1967, Deys, Potts, and others—including Hugh Montefiore—founded the Cambridge Advisory Centre for young people, which provided free contraceptive advice. Inspired by this work, Deys developed and ran a domiciliary family planning service in rural Cambridgeshire in 1968-9, and would often bring her infant daughter, Sarah, born in 1968, to the clinic. Deys told the New Statesman (17 November 1972) why she chose this unusual approach: “because most women of that …

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