Dr Margaret A. Patterson, MBE, MBChB, FRCS Edinburgh: 1922-2002
Meg Patterson came early to medicine, and in spite of her sex, also to surgery. She qualified for the first at twenty-one during the Second World War, and was elected to the FRCS (Edinburgh), lone woman amongst the one hundred candidates, at twenty-five—one of only twenty women who had become Fellows, and the only one in General Surgery. Her career took her to Independence India as a medical missionary where over the next decade she held a number of surgical/teaching posts, with minimal resources establishing and expanding community hospitals and clinics. For these 'outstanding medical services' she was awarded the MBE in 1961.
Moving to the Far East , Dr Patterson was appointed Surgeon-in-Charge of the Surgical Unit, Tung Wah Hospital, Hong Kong. Here, along with her neurosurgical colleagues Drs Wen and Cheung, in 1972 she made the serendipitous discovery that changed her life and that of her family: the ability of electro-acupuncture analgesia (as applied for post-surgical pain-control) to also significantly ameliorate opiate withdrawal symptomatology. The next year, aged fifty, she returned to Britain to pursue clinical and scientific investigation into the technique, giving up her beloved surgery to do so.
Convinced of the therapeutic significance of the treatment's electrical component, and of its medical and social potential, she developed the treatment she named NeuroElectric Therapy (NET), as a non-acupuncture, non-pharmacological intervention for the abstinence-treatment of substances of addiction. In doing so, she rapidly became recognised as a pioneer in the field of electro-medicine.
Notwithstanding having to battle the hostility and suspicion that previously marked Western attitude to Eastern and 'alternative' medicine, after two decades of commitment combined with raw Scottish obstinacy, she found herself, once again, with minimal resources establishing and expanding community-based clinics and programmes, this time in a number of different countries. And despite on-going controversy over the only partially-clarified scientific basis of her electrical technique, her peers in international addiction medicine acknowledged her ‘significant contribution’ to the treatment of addiction.
"My only enemy", said the prodigious Charlie Chaplin, "is time". Meg Patterson, driven by similar urgency, was still treating patients and pursuing research into NET when, aged 77, she suffered a major stroke. Her health never really recovered and she retired to Scotland where after long illness she died on July 25, 2002 .
She is survived by her husband George, three children, five grandchildren, by NET, and the many memories held by those whose lives she touched.
'Used by permission of the British Medical Journal'
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