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Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH

Mervyn Goodman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 39, 2004 Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH* MERVYN GOODMAN Henry Cohen was born on 21 February 1900, the youngest of five children, to Isaac Cohen and Dora (nee Mendelson). Both were refugees from pogroms in Poland - what would now be called asylum seekers. They married in Manchester and moved to Cardigan Street, Birkenhead, where they had four sons and one daughter. His father, a descendant of rabbis, was an impecunious general dealer about whom little is known. His mother was a dominant personality to whom he was deeply attached and with whom he lived until her death in 1955. Lord Taylor of Harlow recalled how 'Henry was a bachelor who lived with his mother in the Toxteth area of Liverpool. For fun I used to say: "Where are you going for your summer holidays, Henry?" The answer was always the same: "I'm taking my mother to Llandudno.'"1 In one of his after-dinner speeches he related how once, when he had had a cold, his mother had gone to the local chemist, bought a bottle of Owbridge's Lung Tonic for him and, he added, put it on his account!2 After her death he spent the rest of his life living with his widowed sister, Anne Compton, who had a pet dog named Cob, an acronym of Cohen of Birkenhead. He attended the elementary Church School of St John in Birkenhead, where the fees were twopence a week, and where he showed an interest in acting. There he played the part of the first watchman in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. A local newspaper described how 'The first watchman had two lines to speak and both were inaudible'.3 His later distinction as an orator showed that he took this criticism to heart. Many years later Lord Walton, professor of neurology in the University of Newcastle and president of the General Medical Council, wrote of him: 'He almost always spoke without a note. Invariably his delivery suggested a * Paper presented to the Society on 8 April 2003. 1 Lord Taylor of Harlow, A Natural History of Everyday Life (London 1988) 224. 2 Liverpool Jewish Gazette March 1949, p. 2. 3 Obituary, The Times 9 August 1977. 197</page><page sequence="2">Mervyn Goodman total spontaneity, but those who knew him well explained that he prepared his talks with infinite care and being gifted with a photographic memory, learnt them by heart.'4 In one of his obituaries a correspondent wrote that 'Henry aspired to perfection ... He was a master of the English language in both its spoken and written form'.5 Professor Brian Macgraith of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said: 'He never made a speech. It was always an oration. Perfect enunciation in a beautiful mellow voice - which I suspect he enjoyed as much as we did - clear, precise delivery never a pause or a flicker ... Every now and then, when he was talking, he would glance upwards to the ceiling. Once I asked him why he did this. He told me that he could see in his mind every page of his manuscript, even the typist's errors and his own correc? tions. When he looked at the ceiling he was merely turning over a few pages.'6 He won a scholarship to the Birkenhead Institute, where he excelled not only in his studies. He became the school captain, captained the first XV rugby team, the first XI cricket team and was the champion gymnast of the school. When asked how he found time to participate in sporting activities he replied: 'While it takes the other boys two hours to do their homework it takes me only 20 minutes'. It was there that he took elocution lessons. One of his schoolmasters remembered him as a brilliant boy 'who showed signs of genius at an age when most boys are only beginning to show signs of intelligence'.7 He himself said, on another occasion, 'Getting where I did took a lot of hard work. I don't agree with the remark about being a provin? cial genius.'8 At the same time he attended Hebrew classes at the Orthodox Hope Place Synagogue in Liverpool. He gained an open scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, to study law, but because of his financial circumstances was unable to take it up. Instead he went to the University of Liverpool on a local authority scholarship, still intending to become a lawyer at the Criminal Bar. He felt that to be a successful criminal lawyer the possession of a medical degree would be an advantage9 and he enrolled in the medical school. Rabbi Isaiah Raffalovitch, the minister at Hope Place Synagogue, wrote: 'One young man who was about to enter the University particularly caught my attention as being unusually talented. I suggested that I prepare him for entry into Jews' 4 J. Walton, The Spice of Life (London 1993) 426. 5 Obituary, by 'G. W. P.', The Lancet 14 August 1977. 6 T. Kelly, For the Advancement of Learning: The University of Liverpool 1881-1981 (Liverpool 1981)250. 7 Obituary, British Medical Journal (hereafter BMJ) 20 August 1977, p. 525. 8 Obituary, Liverpool Daily Post 8 August 1977. 9 Obituary, Liverpool Echo 8 August 1977. 198</page><page sequence="3">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH College as I thought he was destined to be one of the great ministers. But he thought otherwise and embarked upon the medical course. Now he is a professor at the University.'10 In order to save money on tramcar fares he walked from his home to the Birkenhead Ferry and, after crossing the River Mersey, walked from the Pier Head to the University, a journey of more than a mile, and returned home in a similar manner. He took sandwiches for his lunch and, while eating them in the cafeteria, studied The Times crossword puzzle. Having completed his meal he would fill in the puzzle without further reference to the clues. On one occasion his fellow students gave him a page of the Liverpool telephone directory and said 'Henry, you have two minutes to memorize this' and he did it. He remembered the details of every learned paper he had ever read. As an undergraduate he participated in both the Medical Students' Debating Society (MSDS) and the Jewish Students' Society, of which he was a founder member and later student president. The minutes of the MSDS reported 'Mr H C-h-n was next called upon to deliver a five minute speech on Things I don t know. He resumed his seat after two minutes.'11 He graduated MB ChB in 1922 with first-class honours, having gained a distinction in every subject in the curriculum. When thirty-eight years later he was awarded the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, in his own university, the Public Orator, Professor Dr Seaborne Davies, said (in a speech preserved in the University archives): 'Throughout his apprentice? ship he so monopolized medals that at the end of his student career the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the vain fear that another Henry Cohen would appear in the University of Liverpool, deemed it politic to abandon the Gold Standard.' He told me that when he qualified he joined both the Medical Defence Union and the Medical Protection Society, as he felt that neither body alone had sufficient funds to indemnify him. Neither body was able to confirm this. Cohen's subsequent career illustrated his catholic interests, and in each sphere he excelled. As a citizen he became a JP and a deputy lieutenant for Lancashire. In 1955 he was made a Freeman of Birkenhead and was given a similar honour in Liverpool in 1970. He served as president of the Merseyside branch of the English Speaking Union. He had been created a knight in 1949 and was raised to the peerage in 1956, taking the title of Lord Cohen of Birkenhead in the County Palatine of Cheshire. The motto he chose for his baronial crest was Malis Mederi Nemini Nocere - 'to cure 10 Letter from H. Nagley reporting a conversation with I. Raffalovitch the previous year, Liverpool Jewish Gazette July 1956. 11 Minutes of the MSDS, University of Liverpool, February 1922. 199</page><page sequence="4">Mervyn Goodman illness and harm no one'. After his maiden speech in the House of Lords, on vivisection, of which Lord Silkin said that he had never heard a more effec? tive maiden speech, the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Kilmuir (formerly Sir David Maxwell Fyffe, MP for the Liverpool constituency of West Derby), asked: 'I wonder if your lordships will allow me a personal indulgence? The noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, started the practice of Medicine at almost the same time as I started the practice of Law at Liverpool. I hope your lordships will allow me to take this slightly irregular opportunity to convey my congratulations to him on his brilliant speech to which we have just listened and to say that it will give great pleasure not only to his old friends, of whom I am pleased to be one, but also to countless people on Mersey side and beyond.' In 1974 he was made a Companion of Honour. His interest in the theatre was recognized in 1933 when he was invited to join the board of directors of the Liverpool Playhouse, the local repertory company. It was here that many famous actors and actresses began their careers. During his time on the board those who made their debut on the stage included Michael Redgrave, Diana Wynyard and Rex Harrison12 as well as Anna Neagle. In 1948 he became chairman and remained in that posi? tion until 1961. He read all the plays brought to him and, thirty years later, was able to quote from plays which had been produced and what the critics said about them. He himself selected the plays and, being a shrewd business? man, the Playhouse was one of the few provincial repertory companies to make money.13 In an obituary in a programme of the Playhouse, the then Chairman, James Rushton, said that 'He never dominated the Theatre Board and always considered the welfare of the Theatre's personnel'. Three of his mother's cousins were Sam, Lee and Jacob Shubert, American theatre impresarios (among the celebrities they promoted were Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor).14 His legal ambitions were fulfilled as a magistrate and as a member, later chairman, of the disciplinary committee, and subsequently president of the General Medical Council. Shortly after he qualified he participated in a debate between the MSDS and the University Legal Society, successfully proposing the motion 'That the privilege in Court concerning professional secrets be extended to medical men'.15 One of the people he admired and frequently quoted was F. E Smith, later the Earl of Birkenhead and Lord Chancellor. It gave him great satisfaction to include Birkenhead in his baro? nial title. He was elected an honorary bencher of the Inner Temple in 1972. 12 H. Williams, Liverpolitana (Liverpool 1971) 137. 13 G. Wolstenholme (ed.) Munk's Roll III, Lives of Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians, (Oxford 1988) 107. 14 Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1971) 11:1474. 15 Debate reported in Sphinx XXVIII (1922) 82. 200</page><page sequence="5">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH Henry Cohen was proud of being a Jew and an obituary in one of the medical papers wrote that 'His two characteristics which he never denied were his Jewish background and the fact that he was a self made man'.16 When he became a peer he kept his name, a typically Jewish one, rather than select that of a geographical location. In his coat of arms he chose to include 'two hands couped in the Priestly (Cohanim) Blessing'. At that time he was only the seventh member of the medical profession, and the second from the provinces, to be so honoured. After his introduction to the Upper House he remarked that it was seventy-one years since Nathaniel Rothschild, the first Jew to enter the House of Lords, took his seat, taking the oath on a Hebrew Bible with his head covered: 'I was pleased to repeat that process a week ago'.17 He described his Jewish education: T received an invitation from the Rev. I Raffalovitch to attend his Hebrew class for advanced students ... I had been cradled in the old "Cheder" method - ... a method which was in striking and bewildering contrast to that by which classics and modern languages were being taught to me at school.'18 As a Jew he was an outstanding member of the local Jewish community. His prime interest was the Liverpool Hebrews' Educational Institution and Endowed Schools, the Hebrew School, which later became the King David Primary and High Schools. He was elected a foundation manager of the school in 1928 and its treasurer in 1934.19 Shortly after he became chairman of the board of governors the (Butler) Education Act of 1944 came into effect. This abolished elementary schools, where the less academic pupils could continue their education until they were fourteen years old, and replaced them with primary schools. This meant that after the age of eleven all pupils had to proceed to a secondary school. Cohen led the negotiations for a Jewish secondary school with the Department of Education in London. These reached fruition in 1957 when the King David High School was opened. Having presided at the consecration of the site and the laying of the foundation stone he was the guest of honour at the celebratory dinner to mark the opening, and the assembly hall of the school was named after him. When the Hope Place Synagogue moved to Greenbank Drive in 1937 he was invited to perform the official opening and whenever a major event took place in the life of the congregation he played a leading roll. Although he was not a regular attender his arrival at a synagogue service caused a hush among the congregants as he solemnly walked to his front-row seat. It is in the cemetery of this synagogue, in Long Lane, that he is buried. 16 Obituary, General Practitioner 12 August 1977. 17 H. Cohen, Liverpool Jewish Gazette December 1956, p. 9. 18 H. Cohen, 'Message', Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation, Centenary Celebration, Souvenir Brochure(1957) 3. 19 Jewish Chronicle 23 April 1934. 201</page><page sequence="6">Mervyn Goodman Another of his interests was the Jewish Old Age Home, opened in 1949. He had assisted in its planning and later, when a hospital wing was added, his involvement in the Regional Health Authority was of great help. For his work on behalf of the Home he was appointed life president and, in this capacity, always went to the annual garden parties. In 1975 the Ladies' Committee of the Home, of which his sister was the chairman, was summarily disbanded by the board of management and in protest against this action he resigned his presidency. He rarely participated in debates in the House of Lords, but when he did his words had a devastating effect. Combining his Jewish heritage with his clinical acumen he played a significant role in defeating a private member's anti-Shechita bill in 1962.20 In concluding his thirty-minute speech he said: In summary, there are two points I would make. The first is the religious. And, as I have emphasized, the interpretation of Jewish law is not a matter ... for your Lordships' House. The second is: is the method humane? I suggest that such evidence as exists does not suggest the inhumanity of She chit a. But if there is any doubt upon this matter, why not let the Government invite the president of the Royal Society to appoint a panel of experts who could report to the Government... Let me say this finally. The passing of this Bill would plunge into deep sorrow tens of thousands of loyal Jews in this country who for over 3,000 years have ordered their lives in the uninterrupted tradition of what they regard as Divine truth. The bill was lost. In 1972 Rabbi Jakobovits wrote to him and to Lord Rosenheim (a former president of the Royal College of Physicians of London) seeking their advice on genetic screening for Tay-Sachs Disease. He replied that on a cost-benefit basis and with the risks of such pro? cedures, at that time, he could not support such a project. Rosenheim offered a similar opinion.21 Probably today his opinion would be different. A supporter of the State of Israel, although he never visited the coun? try, he was a governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and presi? dent of the medical section of the British Friends of that University. As president of the medical committee of the Liverpool Joint Israel Appeal he helped in their work of raising funds for charitable purposes in Israel. He was actively involved in the Magen David Adorn UK (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) and the Anti-TB League of Israel. In his address at the opening of the King David High School in Liverpool he said: 'The Jews in the Diaspora feel that they owe allegiance to Israel. But 20 Hansard, House of Lords CCXLV, 5th Series, II (London 1962) cols 39-46. 21 I. Jakobovits, 77?^ Timely and the Timeless (London 1977) 380-1. 202</page><page sequence="7">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH this does not mean conflicting loyalties as between the country in which we live and Israel.'22 In 1935 he called together a number of senior Jewish medical practition? ers on Merseyside to discuss what help could be given to Jewish doctors in Nazi Germany who had been forced to leave their posts. He recommended that the refugees be given any medical treatment they required free of charge by Jewish doctors. This meeting led to the establishment of the Liverpool Jewish Medical Society, of which he was the first president and subsequently its honorary president. It is ironic that he should have gained a reputation for not supporting the application of highly qualified Jewish junior doctors to consultant appointments in the Liverpool teaching hospitals. It was, however, in his professional career that Henry Cohen excelled. Having qualified as a doctor he spent a year in Paris before returning to Liverpool to complete his MD thesis and gain the membership of the Royal College of Physicians of London, both in 1924. From the beginning, and throughout his life, he was a member of the staff of the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, the principal teaching hospital of the faculty of medicine of the University of Liverpool, where his teaching ability became apparent from the start. He was appointed an assistant physician in 1924, an achievement rarely seen so soon after qualification. Most young doctors, intent on becoming specialists, spent many years as registrars, waiting to fill 'dead men's shoes'. Not only was this short time remarkable for a person so young, but it was unusual then for a Jew to be appointed to a teaching hospi? tal. At that time the hospital system was divided into voluntary hospitals and municipal hospitals. In the former group the senior doctors were unpaid, hence the title 'honorary'. They relied on the prestige of their posi? tion to attract private patients and the fact that they were able to admit these patients into beds in the hospital. Most young specialists augmented their income as registrars, while awaiting appointments at voluntary hospitals, by taking paid consultantships at municipal hospitals, somewhere on Merseyside. Henry Cohen never took up a such a post. On one occasion he suggested that a consultant appointment to a city hospital was not worth having.23 Cohen's only hospital appointment, throughout his life, was at the Royal Infirmary. His reputation led to him developing the largest private consulting practice in the region. In 1934 the chair in medicine became vacant and Henry Cohen was the natural choice for this position. He occupied this chair for thirty-one years. 22 Report of the opening of King David High School, by H. Cohen, Liverpool Jewish Gazette May 1958, p. 1. 23 R. A. Sells, 'Medical Clubs', Transactions and Report of the Liverpool Medical Institution iggj-igg8 (hereafter T &amp; R LMI) (1998) 16. 203</page><page sequence="8">Mervyn Goodman In 1934 there were only three clinical professors in the faculty of medicine and all were part-time appointments. In 1945 two of the three major clinical departments, Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology, appointed full-time professors, but Cohen refused to accept such a position and remained a part-time professor until his retirement. 'He did not stimulate original thought. One tended to go away from his lectures full of admiration for the performance but with the feeling that there could not possibly be any thing more to be said or done on the subject. Although he did not himself under? take any research, his knowledge of other people's research and the growing points of medicine was comprehensive.'24 As early as the mid-1920s he was discussing the use of cholecystography (contrast X-ray of the gall bladder). In the 1930s he was to be seen with Robert Kelly, professor of surgery, in the operating theatre pinpointing the site of a cerebral tumour using an air encephalogram which he had performed. Twenty years later, in 1956 the family of the late Sir Montague Burton made a gift to the University of Liverpool of a research department as a tribute to his work.25 This formed part of the new medical school and two years later (Sir) Cyril Clarke was appointed reader in medicine, after which much important research was pursued under Cohen's overall supervision. One of his students, later a colleague, wrote: When he was appointed his chief medical commitments were the Royal Infirmary, the chair of Medicine and a huge private practice; and I do recall that he never missed a ward round or a University lecture. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, he was driven into the quadrangle a little after ten past nine, put his hat and coat in the Porter's office and, as the University clock struck quarter past, walked into the lecture theatre. No one can know, but we certainly believed that these were the finest medicine lectures that have ever been given, and I have no reason to revise this view.26 His lectures to clinical students filled the lecture theatre to capacity, but in later years these became few and far between because of his other commit? ments. He enjoyed quoting Latin epithets, especially the razor of William of Ockham (the English philosopher, c. 1285-1359), Entia non sunt multipli canda sine necessitate ('Do not multiply entities beyond necessity') or in medical parlance, hang all the symptoms and signs on one diagnosis. Another favoured Latin tag was post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy of consequence for sequence. His ward rounds attracted a large following of 24 C. Ogilvie, 'Our Forebears: A History of Liverpool Medicine', T &amp; R LMI2001-2002 (2002) 31-2. 25 Report of a reception, Liverpool Jewish Gazette June 1956, p. 9. 26 G. Sanderson, 'Henry Cohen', T &amp; R LMI 1977-1978(1978) 68-9. 204</page><page sequence="9">Lord Cohen in the late 1930s or early 1940s.</page><page sequence="10">Mervyn Goodman both undergraduate and postgraduate students. His thespian talents were evident in his mimicry of physical signs, especially neurological ones - the gait of a patient suffering from Tabes Dorsalis (a manifestation of tertiary syphilis) or of someone who had developed Parkinson's disease. He empha? sized the importance of taking a comprehensive medical history and would chide a student who failed to investigate the possibility of venereal disease because of his or her respectability by saying 'Every admiral was once a midshipman and every archbishop an undergraduate'. Every Friday after? noon he held a 'circus', or what is now called the Grand Round, in the lecture theatre of the Infirmary. Here difficult cases from around the region were presented to him and invariably he made a diagnosis. 'He was so clearly superior, a fact which to some people did more to irritate them than to commend him.'27 Another doctor wrote: 'Henry was a great performer and delighted in showing how simple everything was to him. ... [he] did not go out of his way to make us love him.'28 Such was his reputation as a diag? nostician that it was said anyone who was anybody could not die without being examined by Henry Cohen. Cohen was never a committee member although he chaired many commit? tees. While the National Health Service was still in its embryonic stage he published a paper in February 1943 entitled 'A Comprehensive Health Service', on the public funding of voluntary hospitals and their staffs. This was followed by a second paper in November 1945, 'Our Hospital System - A Retrospect and Prospect',29 shortly after the election of the Labour Government. His entry into national medical politics began in 1940 when he was appointed to the Medical Planning Commission which had been estab? lished jointly by the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons and Obstetricians &amp; Gynaecologists.30 He was elected to the council of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1943, of which he was already an examiner. In the negotiations with the Department of Health, leading up to the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, he was one of the negotiators, representing the provincial consultants. From 1946 to 1948, in the tortuous negotiations between the Ministry of Health and the medical profession on the new National Health Service, the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, held meetings with representatives of the then three Royal Colleges. Bevan took to Cohen from the outset, seeing him as someone who had risen from humble beginnings similar to his own and who had achieved distinction in his profession on his own merit. 27 Lord Shawcross, 'The Lord Cohen Lecture', Journal of the Royal Society of Health III (1979) 93 28 Letter from K. B. Thomas, BMJ II (1978) 1354. 29 C. Webster, The Health Services Since the War I (London 1988) 90. 30 Shawcross (see n. 27) 94. 20?</page><page sequence="11">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH Frequently, before meeting the college negotiators, he would meet Henry Cohen at his brother Levi Cohen's flat in London.31 His friendship with Henry was sealed after Nye Bevan asked a favour of him. Nye had a friend, a former coalminer in South Wales, who had been diagnosed as suffering from a terminal carcinoma of the stomach. He asked Henry if he would see his friend to give a second opinion. Following a referral by the miner's general practitioner, Henry agreed to do so at the London Clinic (since he had no consulting rooms in London he used the Clinic when need arose - indeed, he was quite proud of not having a Harley Street address). After examining the patient he told him to go back to South Wales and he would write to the general practitioner. In his letter he recommended that the patient should receive liver injections as he was suffering from severe pernicious (Addisonian) anaemia and not cancer (liver injection - anahaemin - was the treatment for this condition before the discovery of cyanocobolamin or vit? amin B12). After that Cohen could do no wrong in Bevan's eyes.32 It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was responsible for the original frame? work of the National Health Service. By 1947 he was a dominant force in the advisory machinery on the new health service, and in the following year he was appointed chairman of the Standing Medical Advisory Council and vice chairman of the Central Health Services Council, subsequently becoming its chairman in 1957. In this latter capacity he headed a committee of the Central and Scottish Health Councils on the classification of proprietary preparations. At this early stage in the National Health Service the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons was already questioning the size of the drugs bill.33 The outcome of the work of this committee was to permit the prescribing only of non-proprietary medicines in the National Health Service. During this time Cohen was also a member of the Medical Advisory Council of the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust, a prestigious body consisting of leading provincial clinical academics. At the same time Cohen was involved in the reorganization of secondary health care in the Mersey Region. He had emphasized the importance of teaching hospitals in the new Service, with the regional hospitals trans? ferred from the local authorities to the new regional health boards providing a supporting role. The introduction of the National Health Service co? incided with the emergence of super-specialties in their own right. Cohen had always been opposed to specialization within medicine and when these new units had to be placed they were all put in the regional hospitals, rather than the teaching hospitals. Unkind critics said this was because Henry did 31 Ibid. 32 R. Finn, personal communication. 33 C. Webster (see n. 29) 224. 207</page><page sequence="12">Mervyn Goodman not want any super-specialists in his hospital, but in fact it was purely a matter of logistics. The voluntary hospitals had little space to accommodate new units while many of the municipal ones had spacious grounds. The British Medical Association recognized Cohen's talents and in 1948 invited him to chair a committee on the training of general practitioners. The report, which was the first to mention vocational training, recom? mended a systematic training for general practitioners, including under? graduate training, and that their status should be the same as that of doctors in any other specialty.34 The contents of this report are still apposite today, and a paragraph has recently been quoted: 'However pressed [the doctor] may be for time, each patient should be made to feel that his illness is of real concern to the doctor. The general practitioner needs a deeply imaginative sympathy which enables him to understand his patient's fears, anxieties, pain and discomfort. He must be able to put himself in the patient's place.'35 At the request of the minister of health the Central Health Services Council was asked to undertake an overall study of general practice and again this was chaired by Henry Cohen; the council delivered its report in 1957.36 Cohen's interest in, and support for, general practice was recognized in his becoming one of the first honorary fellows of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP); Sir Michael Drury later wrote that he had become a household name to general practitioners.37 The last public func? tion he performed before his death was to open the Health Centre in which I was the senior partner in June 1977, for which he proudly wore his RCGP tie. In 1950 the British Medical Association held its annual meeting in Liverpool. At that time it was the practice for the president to be chosen from among the distinguished members of the Association in the area where the meeting was to be held. In that year Henry Cohen was the Association's choice. He was later awarded the gold medal for his services to the Association. In 1952 he suffered a coronary thrombosis after which he virtually gave up private medical practice. Later he told Henry Miller, professor of neurology and vice chancellor of the University of Newcastle: 'The only treatment for a cardiac infarction was to stay at home in bed with a bottle of Scotch on the table by one's side'.38 34 General Practice and the Training of General Practitioners (report of a committee of the British Medical Association, the Cohen Report) (London 1950). 35 I. Heath, 'Words about Doctors', BMJ CCCXXN (2002) 722. 36 Report of the Committee on General Practice within the National Health Service (Cohen Report) (London 1954). 37 M. Drury, 'The General Practitioner and Professional Organisations', in I. Loudon, J. Horder and C. Ebster (eds) General Practice under the National Health Service (London 1998) 212. 38 J. Walton (see n. 4) 392. 208</page><page sequence="13">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH He had been appointed a crown representative on the General Medical Council in 1945 and in 1961 was elected president. There 'he displayed a powerful aura of "father knows best" and brooked no dissent at the style of his chairmanship which often stultified legitimate debate'.39 During his period in office major changes were introduced. All these required primary legislation by act of Parliament and included the introduction of an annual retention fee, enlargement of the membership and the creation of a register of vocationally trained doctors. The negotiations between the medical profession, represented by the British Medical Association, and the council were difficult: '[Lord Cohen] had been subjected to much unfair criticism in some quarters of the medical profession.'40 The modernization of the council, which is still continuing, owes much to his initiative. He resigned from the presidency in 1973, following a further illness, his period of membership and his term as president being one of the longest in the history of the council. Appreciation of his work for the council was epito? mized in the resolution which was passed following his resignation: 'That the members of the Council place on record their appreciation of the outstanding services rendered by Lord Cohen of Birkenhead ... of the wisdom and clarity of thought which he has shown in guiding the Council in new directions and of the courage which his leadership has displayed in times of difficulty. The members of the Council also wish to express their admiration of the judicial qualities which he has repeatedly shown when chairing the Disciplinary Committee throughout this period.'41 Cohen held the presidency of the Royal Society of Health from 1958 until his death and the presidency of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1964 to 1966. During the latter presidency the Section of Measurement in Medicine was introduced, which was to include bio-engineering and nuclear medicine computers and sections for clinical immunology and allergy and for medical education, and he supported the formation of the Medico-Pharmaceutical Forum. The only presidency in the medical profession which he did not attain was that of the Royal College of Physicians of London. A number of reasons for this have been suggested. Jealousy and anti-Semitism are two and the third, and most likely, is that it might have prejudiced his election as president of the General Medical Council which he knew was likely to become vacant at about that time. Among the many other honours conferred on him were eleven honorary doctorates in the United Kingdom and two in America, ten honorary fellowships of medical colleges and invitations to deliver some forty 39 Ibid. 427. 40 E. Grey-Turner and F. M. Sutherland, History of the British Medical Association II, 1932-81 (London 1982) 177. 41 General Medical Council, Minutes, 7-8 November 1973, pp. 30-1. 209</page><page sequence="14">Mervyn Goodman eponymous lectures including three to the Royal College of Physicians and one to the Royal College of Surgeons. His election as chancellor of the University of Hull in 1970 was a fitting tribute to his contribution to the academic life of British universities. He was the first Jew and the first medical practitioner to hold such an office in Britain. There are eponymous lectures and a lecture theatre in the Liverpool Medical School, an assembly hall in the Liverpool King David High School, the Lord Cohen of Birkenhead Medal for Services to Gerontology of the British Society for Ageing and the Lord Cohen Lecture of the Association for the Study of Medical Education, all named in his memory. A tutorial room was opened in 2002 in the Jerwood Education Centre of the Royal College of Physicians bearing his name. As time passes, fewer people remember Henry Cohen. In the most recent epitaph, in 2001, it was said that 'The hand of Lord Cohen can still be felt on the structures of Liverpool Medicine even to this day. He was THE [sic] Professor of Medicine appointed for his clinical skills and kept a very small academic staff.'42 In the board room of the faculty of medicine of the University of Liverpool there is a cabinet displaying the honours which Lord Cohen received. He died suddenly on 7 August 1977, while attending a meeting of the Royal Society of Health in Bath, as the result of an injury for which he failed to seek treatment sufficiently early and which led to septicaemia. Despite the short notice of his funeral, which is customary in Judaism, it was attended by one of the largest congregations seen at a Jewish funeral in Liverpool. Representatives of the national and local organizations with which he had been involved felt it their duty to be present to bid farewell to this unique personality. In his will he instructed that the case notes of his patients be destroyed but, unfortunately, his secretary, Miss Lanceley, destroyed all his papers, making the writing of a comprehensive biography virtually impossible. He left grants to Jewish charities and his old school, the Birkenhead Institute, and the residue was left in trust for his sister and his secretary. On their deaths this residue was divided between the University of Liverpool, the University of Hull, the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal Society of Health, the Royal College of Physicians and the Liverpool Medical Institution in varying proportions. I have attempted to describe Henry Cohen's life through the different facets which made up that life. In 1957 he said: 'We must return to the study of the whole. Increasing specialization in practice has led to increased compartmentalism, departmentalism and fragmentation in teaching, with 42 J. Earis, 'The Quiet Art', T &amp; R LMI2001-2002 (2002) 8. 210</page><page sequence="15">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH all the evils that follow. The doctor must never forget that man is more than the sum of his parts.'43 What of Henry Cohen the man ? He was a bachelor and none of his siblings had children. The barony ceased on his death. He was always immaculately dressed and no one I know ever saw him in anything but a dark suit with a shirt and tie. Although a formidable personality he was always approachable socially and put people at ease. An easy conversational? ist, especially when sitting next to someone at dinner, he could talk with authority on almost every subject. When replying to personal letters he usually did so in his own handwriting rather than dictating it to his secre? tary. He listed as his recreations in Who ys Who - where his curriculum vitae occupied three quarters of a page - the theatre, music and the arts, but made no mention of his almost professional expertise in old silver. This was the subject of his presidential address to the Liverpool Medical Institution in 1954, an event which attracted such a large audience that it had to be held in the main hall of the university. He donated most of his silver to the University of Liverpool, whose formal dinners use pieces from his collec? tion. Despite his athletic prowess as a schoolboy he did not play any games as an adult. In 1966 he was elected to a three-year presidency of the City of Chester Male Voice Choir. He never travelled by air and his only overseas visits were to North America and South Africa when he went by boat. One of his other pastimes was bridge, which he played with his few close friends and his family. His appearance on the scene at any event produced a hush in the audi? ence. 'As the morning star shining in the borders of the East, Was the coun? tenance of the [High] Priest.'44 Henry was a Cohen Gadol, a great Cohen. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My thanks are due to my many friends and colleagues for their reminis? cences. In particular I thank Mr Adrian Allan, the Archivist of the University of Liverpool, and Professor Ronald Finn, a relative of Lord Cohen. 43 Quoted in Margery Grace Blackie, The Patient not the Cure (London 1976). 44 From the prayer Marei Cohen, 'The Countenance of the Priest', Arthur Davis and Herbert Adler (eds) Service of the Synagogue: Day of Atonement (London 1951) 2:167. 211</page><page sequence="16">Mervyn Goodman APPENDIX Professor Henry Cohen45 (To the tune 'She was poor but she was honest') 1. Henry came across the water Fourpence was all he had But soon he climbed the ladder For he was a brainy lad Chorus Raise the chorus! For our Henry Always got the answers right Never shirks a diagnosis Now the King's made him a Knight 2. Once he trotted off to Paris And observed disease rare With his customary vigour He learnt quite a few things there 3. When he came back to this City Henry didn't waste much time Soon became our chief physician For professor - next in line 4. To the vacant chair appointed That was 1934 Students to his lectures crowded Filled the room from door to door Final chorus Let us hear you now, Sir Henry Honour him all you who dine Cheer the name of Henry Cohen Knighted 1949 45 Medical Students Society (hereafter MSS) dinner menu iqaq. 212</page><page sequence="17">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH Sir Henry46 (To the tune 'My Bonnie's gone over the Ocean') 1. Our Henry's gone down to London Our Henry's gone far away He's left us to visit his new love He's attempting to run BMA Chorus Bring back, Bring back, Oh bring back, Sir Henry to me, to me 2. In Rodney Street early one morning A patient was found in despair She'd waited all night to see Henry But he's singing in Tavistock Square47 3. Ententia non multiplicanda Both Ocam and Henry enjoin But Humbers &amp; Austins &amp; pushbikes Are all owned by Henry Cohen 4. 'The commonest things are commonest' Is a quip that's beginning to wear A nine o'clock lecture is common For Henry to be there is rare 5. In each Friday afternoon session Sir Henry discourses with glee He is liberal with apposite stories Which later are used by B.B.48 6. Eponymous names are his bete noir The sound of Babinski he hates McBurney and Hand-Schuller- Christian But doubtless accepts Baker-Bates 46 MSS dinner menu 1951. 47 The BMA's headquarters' site. 48 Dr E. T. Baker-Bates, Cohen's junior physician. 213</page><page sequence="18">Mervyn Goodman 7. We hope that he'll be with us next year And put on his official chain For late he's been too much on paper We'd like him on his chair again Professor Sir Henry Cohen49 (To the tune 'Henry the Eighth') I'm Henry the First, I am, I am Sir Henry the First I am I got honoured by the BMA For working out an increase in the Houseman's pay I'm the only one amongst the Honoraries You never hear Sir Charlie50 or Sir Stan51 I'm the only one ... Sir Henry Sir Henry the First I am I'm Sir Henry the First I am, I am Sir Henry the First I am I came to Liverpool the same as you But veni, vidi, vici, and I never got a U And everybody with a memory Who knows they've got their bile ducts in a jam Sends for our Right Bright Knight Sir Henry Sir Henry the First I am MSS dinner menu 1952. 50 Charles Wells, Professor of Surgery. 51 Stanley Unsworth, Consultant surgeon. 214</page><page sequence="19">Henry: a physician of distinction - the Rt Hon. Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, CH To Our Henry52 1. No common Child was Henry C Who was born and bred in Birkenhead Did not the path of knowledge tread Reluctantly, like you and me 2. But tripped along it eagerly He helped his elders with their sums While fellow infants sucked their thumbs And was in short a prodigy. 3. He knew such store of dates and names And generally was so cute They sent him to the Institute Where he excelled at games 4. Exhausting soon this useful sphere A grateful town gave him a schol Remarked it with a halfday hoi. And set him on his own career 5. While hesitating what to be, Divinity which shapes our ends And mystic inspiration sends, Said, 'Be a Liverpool M.D.' 6. He did so, as they say 'And How' With graceful ease he took degrees For knowing lots about disease He surely knows it all by now 7. Degrees and honoris causa too, Were on him laid. By accolade, Sir Henry Cohen he was made. For further details see Who's Who. 52 S. Dumbell, 'Senate Serenade', University of Liverpool, 1962. Recited at a University dinner in honour of Cohen on the announcement of his peerage, July 1956. 215</page><page sequence="20">Mervyn Goodman 8. Fresh honours still upon him fall, Among the Lords he is now set Kind hearts is more than coronet, But he'll have crown and heart and all 9. And we shall have a nobler fate, Be better men, live longer lives, Perhaps more happy be our wives, When Henry starts to legislate.</page></plain_text>