Caroline Richmond obituary


In 1987 the medical journalist Caroline Richmond, who has died aged 82, was shocked on the barrage of protest in response to an article within the New Scientist saying meals components had been principally innocent. Curious to check what else folks may imagine was dangerous, and a fan of carrying brilliant colors, she wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the British Medical Journal, “Material dyes: are they within the shopper’s curiosity?”

It recommended carrying brightly colored garments might need a variety of results together with rising most cancers threat and masking critical psychiatric issues by making folks too cheerful. The article was supposedly issued by the Dye Associated Allergy symptoms Bureau (DRAB), a subsidiary of the Meals Components Analysis Staff (FART), which Richmond assumed would alert readers to the joke.

Nevertheless, the charity Motion Towards Allergy ran the piece in its e-newsletter in all seriousness and readers contacted Richmond eager to share their experiences of bright-clothes allergy symptoms.

It nervous Richmond and satisfied her the UK wanted a physique to name out well being misinformation – just like the Nationwide Council Towards Well being Fraud that existed within the US. In 1988 she circulated a proposal, “Why Britain wants a counter-quackery organisation”, to like-minded colleagues, and on 1 November 1988 the inaugural assembly of the Marketing campaign Towards Well being Fraud occurred within the Previous Bell pub in Fleet Avenue, London. A number of the different members included the most cancers specialist Professor Michael Baum, the hypoglycaemia knowledgeable Professor Vincent Marks and the broadcaster Nick Ross.

In its early days the organisation – which modified its title to HealthWatch (1990) after which to HealthSense (2022) – campaigned towards untested most cancers “cures”, however shortly widened its scope to scrutinise standard drugs. Richmond was on the committee for some years.

Her talent as a medical journalist made her adept at demystifying proof and placing it in layman’s phrases. A fancy character, whose favorite journal was the Skeptic, she was beneficiant, idealistic and drawn to controversy. She could possibly be robust. Ross mentioned: “I wouldn’t need to get on the mistaken facet of Caroline. If I had been a quack pushing drugs to the nervous sick, she’d be in there like a bulldog.”

In 1989 a buddy, Patrick Collard, died and Richmond wrote his obituary. It took her profession in a brand new route, and she or he grew to become a distinguished obituarist of medical doctors and scientists for the BMJ, the Impartial and the Guardian for a number of a long time. Richard Smith, editor of the BMJ from 1991 to 2004, described Richmond’s writing as “crisp and to the purpose with vibrant phrases”.

When she needed to describe the physiologist William Keatinge, for instance, assembly a bear wakening from hibernation, she summed up the state of affairs with a Shakespeare-inspired line: “Exit Keatinge, pursued by a bear.” Describing the method, Richmond mentioned “It’s like portrait portray. Typically the author actually captures the topic, which is a superb feeling.”

A few of her favorite topics included the surgeon Norman Shumway, whom she later recalled as “the true modest hero of coronary heart transplantation” and Sir Douglas Black, applauding him “for exposing well being inequalities and attempting to eradicate them”.

In offering a rounded image of somebody’s life, Richmond was not ready to gloss over shortcomings or keep away from making judgments. In 2003, she wrote an obituary for the BMJ of the founding father of Scotia Prescribed drugs, David Horrobin. She had labored for him and will vouch for his attraction and intelligence, however mentioned his analysis ethics had been doubtful and, because the promoter of night primrose oil (the treatment for which she mentioned there was no illness) “he could show to be best snake oil salesman of his age”.

The obituary brought about thunderous letters to the BMJ for months and a grievance to the Press Complaints Fee. Smith, as BMJ editor, apologised for inflicting offence to Horrobin’s household, however defended the piece, saying, “A whole lot of what our readers need is what I name glorified demise notices, however we would like critical journalistic items that inform tales and do make a judgment on a personality.”

She was born Caroline Smith in Leicester. Her father, Cedric, was Anglo-Indian and labored within the civil service, and her mom, Kathleen (nee Meeson), was a secretary. She had an elder brother, Clive. It was not a simple childhood: she didn’t get on along with her father or slot in in school. The household moved to Kensington, London, after the second world conflict and Caroline went to Richmond county faculty for ladies, from the place she was expelled, she mentioned, for being unpunctual, by no means having the suitable uniform and making the opposite ladies snort. However she got here throughout science books within the library and mentioned: “Information and science grew to become my haven.”

Aged 16, Caroline obtained a laboratory assistant job at a trainer coaching school. She studied for A-levels at evening faculty after which a zoology diploma at Sir John Cass School in London (now a part of London Metropolitan College). Her research had been interrupted by a nervous breakdown however nonetheless she obtained her BSc and launched into a neuroscience PhD at College School London. A number of the outcomes of her experiments in contrast badly with a colleague’s (who she was positive was dishonest) and she or he didn’t end the PhD. As an alternative, she began freelancing for the New Scientist. She additionally labored for Horrobin in his start-up publishing firm in Lancaster for a number of years.

Within the late Eighties she grew to become the UK correspondent for the Canadian Medical Affiliation Journal and contributed to a BBC programme on the historical past of the NHS and a Granada World in Motion programme about rogue medical doctors exploiting individuals who believed that they had allergy symptoms. She additionally contributed to a number of books and with Marks co-wrote Insulin Murders (2007).

In 1976, Caroline had married Peter Richmond, nevertheless it was not a contented relationship they usually divorced two years later, although she saved her married surname. Via Guardian Soulmates she met Jim Edgar in 2010, when she was 68, they usually married in 2015. Apart from work, she mentioned her partnership with Jim was one of many three issues that gave her nice happiness (the others had been her cats Thisbe and Horace and her membership of the Chelsea Arts Membership).

Richmond lived with ill-health for a few years. In 1992, she had surgical procedure to take away the liner of the womb and got here spherical to search out the surgeon Ian Fergusson had eliminated her ovaries and womb, involved he had discovered a cancerous lump. She was horrified, referring to it as “a castration”, and complained to the Basic Medical Council. The surgeon was cleared of misconduct nevertheless it was a high-profile case and, in consequence, the BMA strengthened their pointers for guaranteeing sufferers gave knowledgeable consent to procedures.

In November final yr Richmond was made an honorary member of the Medical Journalists’ Affiliation for her work with HealthSense. Very in poor health from regular strain hydrocephalus, she nonetheless continued to foyer on well being and different points she cared about. Sad {that a} rose in her backyard was known as “Mortimer Sackler” (a key participant within the Purdue Pharma scandal) she persuaded the RHS to drop the title and it grew to become “Mary Delany”, a lot to her satisfaction.

Richmond is survived by Jim and her stepchildren Lisa and Ian.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here