HE WAS a champion of patients’ rights, a pioneer of surgery and a leading light in the fight against health cuts.
These were some of the tributes paid to eminent surgeon, Dr Maurice Neligan, who passed away at his family home on Thursday night.
Dr Neligan carried out the first open-heart surgery in Ireland for congenital problems in 1974.
The death of the 73-year-old was described as tragic loss to the country.
His death is another tragedy to hit his family after daughter Sara Neligan, 34, was murdered in mid 2007.
Dr Neligan performed the first coronary artery by-pass graft in 1975 and later carried out Ireland’s first heart transplant in 1985. He served as consultant cardiac surgeon at the Mater Hospital for more than 30 years and also at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
Educated at Blackrock College, he qualified in medicine from UCD in 1962.
He was also a co-founder of the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin.
The Irish Heart Foundation paid tribute to the contribution Mr Nelligan had made in the development of cardiac surgery in Ireland.
Speaking on Newstalk radio, consultant oncologist, Professor John Crown, said the surgeon had been an inspiration to younger doctors while also being a strong advocate of patients’ rights.
He added: “He was a wonderful inspirational man who made a colossal contribution to Irish life.
“He pointed out inaccuracies where they needed to be pointed out. He was no respecter of the great and powerful and said what needed to be said. We will miss him terribly.”
One commentator said the retired Dublin doctor had in recent years replaced the scalpel with a pen – Mr Neligan wrote a column for a health supplement in a newspaper.
Politicians and medical professionals also expressed sympathy to his family over his death.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said many families were very grateful for the surgeon’s work.
Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly, who had only spoken to Dr Neligan on a radio show just hours before he died, called the surgeon a “champion of the patient”.
“It is deeply sad that the country has lost a great servant to the public interest and medicine has lost a great pioneer and a leading thinker.”
Party leader, Enda Kenny, said the retired doctor was the “first superstar of Irish medicine”.
Dr Neligan is survived by his wife Pat, who is also a doctor. The couple had seven children.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved