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Biographical entry Shuttleworth, Kenneth Ernest Dawson (1922 - 2006)

MRCS 1944; FRCS 1948; MB BS London 1944; MS 1962; LRCP 1944.

30 April 1922
Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
8 March 2006
Urological surgeon


Ken Shuttleworth helped establish the urology department at St Thomas' Hospital, London. He was born on 30 April 1922 in Bradford to Frederick and Edith Shuttleworth. His father won a scholarship to Oxford from Bradford Grammar School to read mathematics: his mother was at Girton College, Cambridge. His father won the Military Cross in 1918 for successfully evacuating his gun crew despite a severe wound to his leg. After the war, he became a chartered accountant at Deloitte's, despite his disability, but for a long time it was Ken's mother who kept the family afloat by teaching mathematics at Queen's College in Harley Street. Ken was educated at Watford Grammar School. Despite some early experience in hospital, where he had fainted at the sight of blood every day for a fortnight, he entered St Thomas' Hospital to study medicine in 1939.

He qualified in 1944 and at once joined the RAMC, serving in Italy, Egypt and Palestine, an experience which included taking out the appendix of the son of a sheikh, who rewarded him with a feast including the traditional sheep's eyes.

On demobilisation, he returned to St Thomas', at first at Midhurst, where he married Phillippa Hartley, and then as a surgical registrar in Lambeth. He was put in charge of an audit of the results of hernia repairs in a large number of policemen, mostly using the nylon darn method, which he published in 1962. He was an exchange fellow at McGill University at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, where he carried out research into intravenous fat therapy and the metabolism of glyceride clearance under Gavin Miller, and took the opportunity to tour America and visit Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic.

On his return he was appointed to the staff of St Thomas' and awarded a Hunterian Professorship in the College in 1962. From the days of Cheselden, the urological tradition at St Thomas' had always been a strong one, and at this time was being upheld by R H O B Robinson and Walter 'Gaffer' Mimpriss, who had taken the trouble to visit the United States to learn the technique of transurethral resection with the cold punch from Gershom Thompson at the Mayo Clinic. Both Robinson and Mimpriss continued with general surgery until they retired in 1962 and 1970 respectively. Shuttleworth replaced Mimpriss as a general surgeon, but at once realised the necessity of setting up a specialist department of urology, entirely separate from that of general surgery. Such specialisation in London was at that time exceptional, and he faced opposition from some colleagues who were keen for the overlap between urology and general surgery to continue. But Shuttleworth stuck to his guns and eventually won the day.

He realised too that a specialist department must be seen to be carrying out research if it was to be credible, and if its trainees were to gain higher degrees in surgery. At this time at St Thomas' Brian Creamer was breaking new ground with his measurements of the pressure changes in the oesophagus, and this stimulated Shuttleworth to do the same thing in the urinary tract, long before urodynamics had been dreamed of. He sent several of his brighter protégés to San Francisco to learn the latest techniques from Frank Hinman Jr. He extended these studies to the upper urinary tract in the physiology of the ureter and hydronephrosis.

The theoretical advantage of combining of hyperbaric oxygen with external beam irradiation was then being developed at St Thomas', and Shuttleworth was keen to offer its advantages to men with carcinoma of the prostate, among whom were some very distinguished people.

He was president of the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) from 1982 to 1984, at a time when many in the surgical subspecialties were urging the surgical Royal Colleges to set up a higher surgical qualification which would indicate when a candidate had been fully trained in his or her specialty. The Edinburgh College had led the way by setting up specialist assessments in neurosurgery and orthopaedics, and approached Ken on the feasibility of a similar examination in urology. Representatives from BAUS visited Edinburgh to observe the assessment in orthopaedics, which impressed and persuaded them of the need for a comparable assessment in urology. BAUS were persuaded to support this concept, but not without some difficulty and only on condition that it would be set up jointly by all four surgical Royal Colleges.

The invention by Dornier of the method of extracorporeal shock wave destruction of urinary stones came at a time when the NHS budget was under unusual strain and the Department of Health asked for bids from different London hospitals. The competition was intense, but Shuttleworth put forward a scheme which won the prize, and for the next decade large numbers of renal calculi were referred to St Thomas' for the new treatment. The results of the first thousand cases were published in the British Journal of Urology [1986 Dec; 58(6):573-7]. His publications included his Hunterian Lecture [Ann Roy Coll Surg Eng 1963; 32:164-179] and a chapter on urological surgery for De Wardener's textbook, The Kidney.

In committee he was often dogmatic and, as a consequence, nearly always got his way, although not when he was outvoted in the appointment of the first female surgical registrar! (In his view a surgical career was for men.) Because of his strong personality and strong views he had many detractors in the hospital, and strained relationships were also apparent in relation to his somewhat turbulent private life.

He was a lover of sunshine and of Italy, owning a villa in Tuscany, where he retreated each summer and produced his own wine. He had three marriages, all of which failed, and from each of which there were children. This was unusual in the then conformist establishment of St Thomas' and some of his more puritanical colleagues were distinctly disconcerted. He also attracted a circle of devoted supporters.

In retirement he moved permanently to his Tuscan farmhouse, where he was happy growing his own vegetables, harvesting his hay field, picking his own grapes and making wine, and entertaining friends who visited him from England. Left alone after the death of his partner Pamela, he continued to be a generous host and kept in touch with several of his family. A hip replacement in London did not slow him up and it was only when he suffered progressive amnesia that his family brought him back to England to a nursing home. He was then diagnosed with prostate cancer from which he eventually died on 8 March 2006. His supporters felt that it was sad there was no memorial service for him at St Thomas', as was customary for a departed senior member of the consultant staff.

Sir Barry Jackson

Sources used to compile this entry: [Personal knowledge and information from John Blandy, Martin Claridge, Phillippa, Lady Mellon, Henry Oakeley].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England