Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Born: April 4, 1925;

Died: July 1, 2016

CALLUM Macnaughton, who has died aged 91, was an innovative and compassionate medic and academic whose dedication to his patients and progressive attitude saved and improved the lives of countless women.

Deeply influenced by the pioneering obstetrician Sir Dugald Baird, for whom he worked in Aberdeen, the Glasgow-born doctor echoed Sir Dugald’s acute interest in the social issues affecting the health of women, their babies and wider families.

He championed his philosophy that women should be free from the tyranny of excessive fertility and, though it was not fashionable, he worked quietly and diplomatically to convince doctors of the positive advantages of family planning and, when necessary, therapeutic abortion.

At the same time he was dedicated to helping women achieve the pregnancies they desired and was a key member of the Warnock Committee which shaped the regulation of assisted reproduction technologies, leading to the formation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Knighted in 1986 for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology, he was admired by colleagues and students and idolised by patients, inspiring a deep loyalty that saw at least one former patient, who owed her life and that of her newborn baby to him, attend his thanksgiving service.

Malcolm Campbell Macnaughton, named after his uncle and likewise always known as Callum, was the elder son of James Hay Macnaughton, an accountant and secretary of the Straits Trading Co of Singapore, and his wife Mary. He was educated initially at St Columba’s School, Kilmacolm and then Craigholme School in Glasgow before going on to The Glasgow Academy of which he was later to become an honorary governor.

With his sights set on a career in medicine, after leaving school during the Second World War, he embarked on his studies at Glasgow University in 1942 and following graduation worked as a resident in the city’s Victoria Infirmary and Rottenrow maternity hospital before being called up for national service. He served two years in the Gurkhas in Hong Kong and the New Territories and was demobbed in 1952 with the rank of captain.

His interest in obstetrics and gynaecology had already been inspired by Sir Hector MacLennan, one of his lecturers at Glasgow University who was also knighted for services to the field, and after the army he returned, as a senior resident, to the Victoria Infirmary and then to Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital. But it was his subsequent two years at Bellshill Maternity that really fuelled his passion for the subject. He began research, with a particular focus on hormones and the compound pregnanediol – work that signalled a move towards academia and an enduring interest in the endocrinology of reproduction.

In 1957 he became a lecturer in Aberdeen where Sir Dugald Baird, Regius Professor of Midwifery, would play a key role in persuading Parliament and society of the need for abortion reform, resulting in Sir David Steel’s 1967 bill which became the Abortion Act.

Professor Macnaughton, who supported Sir Dugald’s aims, moved to Dundee as a senior lecturer in 1961 before taking up the Muirhead Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Glasgow University in 1970.

On his return to Glasgow the new abortion law was only three years old and medical opinion on it was divided. Women requesting a termination were often faced with a lottery, depending on the view of their GP, as to whether their plea would be favourably considered. But, whilst not viewing the effects of legalising abortion as universally positive, he believed the benefits greatly outweighed the drawbacks and worked quietly to change attitudes, winning over many in the medical profession. He also recognised the need for a family planning service and worked to improve facilities in this sphere.

But just as he was driven to help women, like those of the poverty-blighted East End who, with little choice in the matter, produced large families, so too was he moved by the plight of those unable to have children.

This became a significant aspect of his work and after being elected president of the Royal College of Gynaecologists in 1984 he went on to become president of the British Fertility Society in 1992, the same year he took on the role as vice president of the Royal College of Midwives.

It was during this period that he also served as president of the charity then known as Birthright and got to know the late Diana, Princess of Wales who was an active patron of the organisation.

Throughout all his academic and practical work, which also encompassed cancer surgery and pioneering the Scottish Perinatal Mortality audit, he demonstrated enormous empathy and common sense coupled with the ability to see things from the point of view of both his patients and his students.

The author of numerous books and research papers on obstetrics, gynaecology and endocrinology, after retiring in 1990 he continued to support innovative research through his 10-year tenure as chairman of Tenovus Scotland, an organisation helping young researchers with grants to get their investigations up and running.

Beyond his professional career, he was a keen fisherman and curler and had been a member of the BMA curling club along with Margaret-Ann, his wife of more than 60 years. The one great sadness in an otherwise supremely successful and happy life was the loss of his younger brother Douglas and his wife, who were killed in a car crash en route to join him and his wife at the Royal College of Gynaecologists during his presidency.

Professor Macnaughton, who is survived by his wife and children Graham, Jane, Torquil, Gillian and Jennifer, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, died on July 1, precisely 100 years to the day since the death at The Somme of his Uncle Callum from whom he took his name.