Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 25-July-2008, Vol 121 No 1278
Stephen Watson Taylor
Stephen graduated from Otago Medical School as a committed socialist in 1951.
He hung his plate in the new state housing developments of Mount Roskill in 1953.
In 1959 after the US Surgeons General Report on Smoking and Health, he called a public meeting at the Mount Roskill Council Chamber and became the founding patron of NASH—National Action on Smoking and Health. This small group later evolved into the worldwide network of anti-smoking charities (ASH). He campaigned hard for a legislative ban on the advertising of cigarettes and in 1963 New Zealand became the first country to withdraw tobacco advertisements from television and the print media.
He was to be a sole practitioner in Mount Roskill for 20 years.
With a long interest in natural childbirth and as a follower of Grantley Dick Read in the late 1970s, he commenced practise in Ponsonby as a home birth doctor. He became an advocate for reform of the legislation prohibiting home birth.
A well-known supporter of the political left, he fasted in Albert Park in 1970 for 40 days on a glass of water per day in a personal protest against New Zealand’s involvement in the Vietnam War (see photo).
He was never content with the status quo, and by the 1970s had taken the view that medical intervention was often unhelpful and that the body would in time heal and solve its problems of (and in) itself. To the dismay of his patients, he was strongly against the use of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and the prescription of pain killers and antibiotics—unless absolutely medically necessary.
After his experience of the demands of sole practice he saw a need for out-of-hours medical services and with support from a business friend in the 1970s he opened the first out-of-hours emergency practice in the Khyber Pass in Auckland.
In the early 1980s he worked at the “front lines” in the Springbok Rugby Tour demonstrations, helping demonstrators who had been injured in the rioting by the famous Red and Blue Squad “crowd control” tactics.
He travelled the world, and in his later years lived in Brisbane having retired to write on philosophy, politics, childbirth, and mathematics. He developed a theory of number based on the circle (Circlemaths) to which he devoted many of his final years.
When faced with a respiratory illness in his last days he declined drugs and passed away on 5 July 2008 at the Cook Hospital in Gisborne with his family close at hand.
He is survived by his wife Carol, four sons and a daughter, and his older brother Dr Robert C Taylor of Napier.
Peter Taylor (one of Stephen's sons), a solicitor in London England, wrote this obituary on the suggestion of Dr Bill Brabazon who attended Otago Medical School with Stephen in the late 1940s.
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